Epi­cri­anthes – Genus or Sec­tion?

Manila Bulletin - - Front Page - By JIM COOTES and RONNY BOOS Epi­cri­anthes Bi­j­dra­gen, Bul­bo­phyl­lum, Bul­bo­phyl­li­nae, Bul­bo­phyl­lum. Epi­cri­anthes Epi­cri­anthes Epi­cri­anthes Epi­cri­anthes aquinoi (Dr. Miguel David De Leon) Epi­cri­anthes da­vidii Epi­cri­anthes gle­bo­dactyla Epi­cri­anthes sage­mueller

The genus was first pro­posed by Dr. Carl Blume, in his mon­u­men­tal work, pub­lished in 1825. The generic name refers to the fin­ger-like ap­pendages (cor­rectly named “paleae”) on the tips of the much-re­duced petals. In 1883, Ge­orge Ben­tham and Sir Wil­liam Hooker trans­ferred the genus to a sec­tion of

a po­si­tion main­tained by many tax­onomists and botanists since.

We find this genus very easy to dis­tin­guish, from its rel­a­tives in the

be­cause of the pen­du­lous growth habit of the plant; the four-sided pseu­dob­ulbs; the short-lived, rel­a­tively small flow­ers; the sim­i­lar size, and shape, of the dor­sal and lateral sepals; and the most re­mark­able paleae.

Now that DNA stud­ies are be­ing made of orchids, many sur­prises are be­ing pub­lished on a reg­u­lar ba­sis; many of which make ab­so­lutely no sense, when one looks at the mor­phol­ogy of the plants con­cerned. We are ex­pected to ig­nore what a plant looks like, plus many years of mor­pho­log­i­cal stud­ies of the plants them­selves, and blindly ac­cept these find­ings, which can­not be seen with the naked eye. Amaz­ingly, at least to us, the genus is deeply em­bed­ded within the genus

Of course, the first au­thor (Jim Cootes) is most will­ing to be con­vinced of the (pos­si­ble) er­ror of his ways, in not ac­cept­ing DNA find­ings, if some­one can take the time to ex­plain it all to him in a sim­ple, easy to un­der­stand, man­ner.

In the Philip­pines, there are four de­scribed species, and at least as many more, which are await­ing de­scrip­tion. In fact, it will not be sur­pris­ing if the genus has its cen­ter of dis­tri­bu­tion within the Philip­pine ar­chi­pel­ago, as the num­ber of species be­ing found is in­creas­ing rapidly. It is quite likely that Min­danao will have the most species of this won­der­ful genus.

was only re­cently de­scribed, from plants found in the north of Min­danao, at high el­e­va­tions. The yel­low flow­ers are most at­trac­tive and are about 1.8 cm across the widest point of the bloom. The spe­cific ep­i­thet hon­ors the pre­vi­ous Pres­i­dent of the Philip­pines, Benigno Aquino Jr.

is another re­cently named species, which was also found in north­ern Min­danao. Again, it is a species of high el­e­va­tions. It grows on the trunks and usu­ally hor­i­zon­tal branches of trees that have rough bark, usu­ally with the roots amongst deep mosses.

was de­scribed back in 2009, from plants ini­tially dis­cov­ered on the east coast of Lu­zon, at el­e­va­tions of about 500 to 800 me­ters. It was ob­served grow­ing on the un­der­sides of hor­i­zon­tal branches, where it re­ceived bright light, high hu­mid­ity, and con­stant air move­ment. It has since been found in the moun­tains of cen­tral Lu­zon at el­e­va­tions of over 1,200 me­ters, so it, or any of the species men­tioned here, should not be grown in the low­lands as they will only suf­fer a mis­er­able death. was named at about the same time as

(but by dif­fer­ent au­thors, who knew of each other’s new species de­scrip­tions, we has­ten to add) from plants found at high el­e­va­tions on the Visayan is­land of Ne­gros.

We en­cour­age our read­ers to look up more pic­tures on­line, to be drawn into a bizarre world of mimicry of in­sects, in which this genus or sec­tion spe­cial­izes. That alone should strengthen some­one’s view how to treat given an over­all knowl­edge of the genus

to start with. From what we know, a com­mon char­ac­ter­is­tic is a rough la­bel­lum, and more of­ten pa­pil­lose (pim­ples or small pus­tules), com­bined with an odor, which at­tract par­tic­u­lar species of flies as pos­si­ble pol­li­na­tors. As al­ready stated, flow­ers are very short-lived, and one can lit­er­ally watch them open­ing or clos­ing in the morn­ing hours. A few years ago, one new species was de­scribed, not from the Philip­pines though, mak­ing it the first dis­cov­ery of noc­tur­nal flow­ers in orchids, clos­ing-up be­fore sun­rise!

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