AFRICAN

ORCHIDS

Malaxis seychellarum (Kraenzl.) Summerh., Kew Bull. 8: 578 (1953 publ. 1954).
Homotypic Synonyms:
Liparis seychellarum Kraenzl., Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 33: 60 (1902).
Microstylis seychellarum (Kraenzl.) Schltr., Beih. Bot. Centralbl. 33(2): 411 (1915).
Seidenfia seychellarum (Kraenzl.) Szlach., Fragm. Florist. Geobot., Suppl. 3: 122 (1995).
Heterotypic Synonyms:
Microstylis thomassetii Rolfe, Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1922: 24 (1922).
Description:
Medium to large humicole plant, epiphyte or lithophyte 10 – 33 cm tall but generally between 15 and 25 cm, rhizome very short, repent, roots filiform, flexuose more or less pilose. Pseudobulbs stem-like, narrowly cylindrical-ovoid to subcylindrical, thickened-bulbous at the base, 5 – 8 cm long, 1 – 2 cm in diam., covered by 2 – 3 long and overlapping stem-sheaths, sometimes the older pseudobulb obliquely divergent and always leafless, with up to 2 – 5 leaves but generally 3 – 4, starting half-way up the stem and ending with 2 – 3 larger ones towards the apex. Leaves erectly spreading, obliquely elliptic to ovate-elliptic, apiculate to obtuse, base rounded-cuneate and then attenuate into a 1.5 – 3 cm petiole, overall 7 – 20 × 2.5 – 7 cm, plicate, margins a little undulate to crenulated, thin, purple becoming green or green. Inflorescence erect, up to 30 cm, 2 – 3 mm in diam., green to purple, densely racemose with up to 50 flowers. Peduncle costate, with 2 – 3 bract-like peduncle sheaths, up to 4 × 2 mm. Rachis around ¾ of the inflorescence. Floral bracts arched, descending, linear-lanceolate-acuminate, 3 – 8 × 1.5 – 2 mm, green to purple-brown. Flowers not resupinate, very small to small, opening in succession, overall c. 5 × 6 mm, variable in colour from pale greenish-yellow, lemon-yellow, purplish green to purple, fading to yellow-orange, there seem to be distinct colour forms in different locations. Pedicel and ovary linear, slightly arched, 3.2 – 5 × 0.3 – 0.8 mm, green, often tinted purple. Dorsal sepal lanceolate, obtuse, 2.3 – 3.9 × 0.4 × 1.1 mm. Lateral sepals linear-oblong, obtuse, subfalcate, 2.3 – 3.2 × 0.9 – 1.6 mm. Petals linear, obtuse, arched and crossing below the column, 2.9 – 3.8 × 0.3 – 0.6 mm. Lip transversally oblong to flabellate, shortly winged at the base, with a more or less distinct basal callus, distinctly irregularly dentate at the anterior margin, 1.8 – 2.1 × 2.5 – 3.3 mm. Column slightly incurved, wings small, distinctly rounded, apex triangular, 1.2 – 1.6 × 0.3 – 0.8 mm. Anther broadly ovoid, angular at the base, c. 0.3 × 0.4 mm. Seed capsule obovoid, shortly pedicellate, 8 – 10 mm long.
Etymology:
In reference to the Seychelles archipelago where the species is endemic.
Recognition:
This is a large plant, with non-resupinate flowers, arched descending floral bracts, subfalcate petals, an oblong to flabellate lip with a callus at the base and dentate margin, and an anther with rounded lobes at the apex.
Kraenzlin mentioned that in shape it was similar to Liparis flavescens but the obviously wider petals and the short wedge-shaped, very wide at the front, toothed lip were distinctive. It is indeed similar to several Liparis from Madagascar and the Mascarenes and vegetatively comparable with species like L. ochracea but the dense rachis of small non-resupinate flowers with a dentate lip margin make it very distinct. Rolfe, in describing Microstylis thomassetii, stated that it was related to the Asian Microstylis rheedii Lindl. (Lindley 1830a: 21) but differed by the narrower leaves and the shorter dentate lip. The latter shows, together with a number of other species from Asia, a number of similarities both in plant and flower but the flowers of Malaxis seychellarum are smaller and the teeth at the margin of the lip are generally fewer (6 – 8 vs 8 – 18) and not as deeply and acutely dentate. There is undoubtedly a genetic relationship between the species but the Seychelles taxon warrants specific recognition.
Habitat:
Montane forest, growing in moss on rocks, on trees and tree ferns, in damp humus in shady undergrowth. Altitude: 400 – 750 m.
Flowering time:
The species seems to flower all year round with the main season from November to May. Flowering and seed-bearing plants co-exist.
Distribution:
Endemic to the Seychelles
References:
Kew Bull. 8: 578 (1953 publ. 1954).; Malaxideae (Orchidaceae) in Madagascar, the Mascarenes, Seychelles and Comoro Islands Kew Bulletin volume 75, Article number: 1 (2020)
Images:
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Habitat/In situ Habitat/In situ Habitat/In situ Habitat/In situ Habitat/In situ
Malaxis seychellarum 01  Malaxis seychellarum 03  Malaxis seychellarum with fruits   Malaxis seychellarum. Closer Malaxis seychellarum  Close up 
Photograph© Rogier
van Vugt. Image used
with kind permission.
Photograph© Rogier
van Vugt. Image used
with kind permission.
Photograph© Rogier
van Vugt. Image used
with kind permission.
Photograph© Rogier
van Vugt. Image used
with kind permission.
Photograph© Rogier
van Vugt. Image used
with kind permission.