AFRICAN

ORCHIDS

Epipogium Borkhausen, Tent. Disp. Pl. German. 139. 1792.
Synonyms:
Galera Blume, Bijdr.: 415 (1825).
Ceratopsis Lindl., Gen. Sp. Orchid. Pl.: 383 (1840).
Podanthera Wight, Icon. Pl. Ind. Orient. 5: 22 (1851).
Epipogon Ledeb., Fl. Ross. 4: 77 (1852), orth. var.
Epipogion St.-Lag., Ann. Soc. Bot. Lyon 7: 144 (1880), orth. var.
Description:
Herbs saprophytic, with coralloid rhizomes or fleshy tubers belowground. Stem erect, usually yellowish brown, with nodes, fleshy, without green leaves, with sparse scale-like sheaths. Raceme terminal, several or many flowered; floral bracts relatively small. Ovary dilated. Flowers often +/- pendulous. Sepals similar to petals, free, sometimes +/- connivent; labellum wide, 3-lobed or unlobed, fleshy, concave, with large, broad spur at base; labellum disc often with papillose longitudinal ridges or lamella; column short, without column foot; anthers overhanging forward, fleshy; pollinia 2, with slits, loosely granular-farinaceous, composed of dumplings, each with 1 slender caudicle and a common viscidium; stigma basally in front of column at base; rostellum rather small.
Distribution:
Temp. Eurasia, Trop. Africa to SW. Pacific
Notes:
Only two species are known in this curious genus, one of which is distributed throughout the temper-ate parts of Europe and Asia and the other is found in the tropics of the Old World. The plants lack chlorophyll and spend the whole of their lives in close association with mycorrhizal fungi.
They have sometimes been called saprophytes, but may be more accurately described as parasites upon their associated fungi. The name is derived from two Greek words epi (on) and pogon (beard), refer-ring to the turned up tip that has a fanciful resemblance to a beard.
The leafless plants are a dull pinkish-brown colour and bear a few sheath-like, brownish leaves towards the base. The flowers are usually nodding, white or pinkish and sometimes spotted in a darker colour. They are aften self-pollinated at an early age and the ovary swells up to become a conspicuous part of the flower. Seeds are dispersed within a few days.
Cultivation:
Unknown and rather unlikely considering the very short lire of the flowering stage of these plants.
A key to the genus Epipogium R. Br.,

Bibliography and References:
Chowdhery HJ, Pal GD, Giri GS. 1993 A new species of Epipogium (Orchidaceae) from Arunachal Pradesh, India. Nordic J. Bot. 13. (4): 419-421 (1993)
Olszewski TS. 2004 A provisional checklist of the continental African Orchidaceae. 5. Vanilloideae. Pol. Bot. J. 49. 123-134
Roberts J. 1992 British native orchids. Orchid Rev. 100. (1183): 169-170 (1992)
Vermeulen P. 1965 The place of Epipogium in the system of the Orchidales. Acta bot. neerl. 14. 230-41.