Epicrianthes – Genus or Section?
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!