AFRICAN

ORCHIDS

Sphyrarhynchus Mansf., Notizbl. Bot. Gart. Berlin-Dahlem 12: 706 (1935).
Description:
This monotypic genus with an almost unpronounceable name was known only from northern Tanzania until recently when it was discovered on the eastern slopes of the Aberdare Mts. Each plant has only a few small, glaucous leaves above a mass of flattened roots that are green when wet. They can hardly be distinguished from the two small species of Angraecopsis except when flowering. The flowers are unexpectedly large, glistening white with a green flash on the surface of the tip. Usually there are a few flowers on each of several or many inflorescences so that the tiny plant appears to be covered in a hall of flowers.
Notes:
The generic name is derived from two Greek words sphyra (hammer) and rhynchos (snout or beak) and refers to the shape of the rostellum at the apex of the column: in side view the rostellum resembles a minute hammer.

Etymology:
The species is named in honour of H.J. Schlieben, a German plant collector who discovered it in Tanzania in 1935, and who later lived in South Africa where he also made many interesting collections.
Distribution:
Tanzania
Cultivation:
This species is easily maintained in cultivation if collected on the small branches on which it is found. It has also been raised from seeds, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where it surprised everyone in the laboratory by flowering while it was still in the flask. The young seedlings are best established on pieces of cork oak bark or on small pieces of hard wood. Since it is a montane species the plants thrive where there is a drop in temperature to cool conditions at night.
Species:

 

Sphyrarhynchus schliebenii Mansf. Tanzania.

World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://www.kew.org/wcsp/ accessed 1/15/2010
Bibliography and References:
Arends JC, Van der Laan FM. 1986 Cytotaxonomy of the Vandeae. Lindleyana. 1. 33-41.
Carlsward BS, Stern WL, Bytebier B. 2006 Comparative vegetative anatomy and systematics of the angraecoids (Vandeae, Orchidaceae) with an emphasis on the leafless habit. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 151. 165-218.
Gasson P, Cribb PJ. 1986 the leaf anatomy of Ossiculum aurantiacum Cribb & van der Laan (Orchidaceae: Vandoideae). Kew Bull. 41. 827-32.