AFRICAN

ORCHIDS

Epipactis Zinn, Cat. Pl. Hort. Gott.: 85 (1757), nom. cons.
Homotypic synonyms:
Limodorum Ludw. ex Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 671 (1891), nom. illeg.
Heterotypic synonyms:
Helleborine Mill., Gard. Dict. Abr. ed. 4 (1754).
Limonias Ehrh., Beitr. Naturk. 4: 147 (1789).
Arthrochilium Beck, Fl. Nieder-Österreich 1: 212 (1890).
Calliphyllon Bubani, Fl. Pyren. 4: 56 (1901).
Amesia A.Nelson & J.F.Macbr., Bot. Gaz. 56: 472 (1913).
Parapactis W.Zimm., Mitt. Bad. Landesvereins Naturk., n.f., 1: 232 (1922).
Description:
As characteristic of all orchids, Epipactis spp. are dependent on a mycorrhizal symbiosis (see also Orchid mycorrhiza). This allows some species to have reduced leaves and need little chlorophyll. Violet Helleborine (Epipactis viridiflora) can even do without chlorophyll. These forms can be recognized by their purple instead of violet flowers.
Their creeping, fleshy rhizomes grow offshoots, from which then emerge the 20-70 cm long stems during the next spring.There are four to eight alternate, lanceolate leaves, that grow progressively shorter near the top. The margins are entire, the top is acute. Species with less chlorophyll have blue-purple leaves.Their bilaterally symmetrical colorful flowers grow from a terminal raceme. The three sepals and the two lateral petals are ovate and acuminate.
Their color can vary from greenish-white to violet and purple.The lip is divided in a bowl-shaped hypochile, with the outer surface greenish-white and threaded with dark veins. The wavy, snow-white epichile is fan-shaped.The ovary is inferior. It produces a dry capsule with countless minute seeds.
The type species: Epipactis helleborine (L.) Crantz
Notes:
The name Epipactis is an ancient Greek word for which helleborine is an alternative.
Distribution:
Temp. & Subtrop. to Malawi
Cultivation:
Some of the European and Chinese species are grown without difficulty as pot plants. Maintained in a suitable soil mix, with proper attention to a resting period or winter conditions, they make attractive specimens in an alpine house and some-times outside. A few hybrids have also been created and are easily grown. Because of its great length the African species would be rather difficult to manage in a pot, but plants might succeed in frost-free gardens.
Species:

Epipactis africana Rendle SW. Ethiopia to Malawi.
Epipactis helleborine (L.) Crantz N. Africa, Europe to C. China.
Epipactis helleborine subsp. helleborine N. Africa, Europe to C. China.
Epipactis helleborine subsp. tremolsii (Pau) E.Klein W. Medit.
Epipactis lusitanica D.Tyteca C. & S. Portugal to SW. Spain, Morocco.
Epipactis ulugurica Mansf. Tanzania (Uluguru Mts.).
Epipactis veratrifolia Boiss. & Hohen. Caucasus to Somalia and SC. China.

World Checklist of Monocotyledons. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://www.kew.org/wcsp/monocots/ accessed 1/16/2010
Bibliography and References:
Gevaudan A, Delforge P. 2004 Epipactis xrobatschii nothosp. nat. nov. Nat. Belg. 85. 72-76
Pedersen HA, Faurholdt N, Reinhardt J. 2004 Epipactis leptochila x phyllanthes: an unexpected new natural hybrid. Orchid Rev. 112. (1257): 151-154 (2004)