Herbarium Digital Library


Category: Plants and Orchids
Date Posted: 2006-10-18

HABENARIA IS A GENUS WHICH HAS THE DISTINCTION OF BEING one of the largest of the terrestrial groups of the orchid family. The genus includes about seven hundred species which are widely distributed over Europe, India, East Indies, North and South America, Africa, Madagascar, Japan, the Philippines and Australia. About twenty-seven species are indigenous to the Philippines and these are found growing at different elevations from sea level to the top of Mount Santo Tomas, seventy-five hundred feet above sea level. Also some plants grow in the hot sunny grasslands at low elevation, while others can be collected from the floor of the mountain forest.

All native Habenarias are terrestrials and deciduous. They are produced from tubers and the stem system dies down annually. The foliage generally develops in a rosette-like fashion from the center of which the erect flower scapes are produced. This is a raceme of several to many flowers, which are formed on the apical portion of the stem. The flowers are generally greenish to whitish in color and seldom exceed three-quarters of an inch in diameter. The dorsal sepals and petals are often hood-shaped and the petals are either simple (entire) or divided. The lip has a conspicuous, long three-lobed spur with simple or divided sidelobes. The column is short with two wart-like auricles on both sides. A prominent feature of the flowers of this group are the two conspicuous club-like pollinia. The generic name, Habenaria, is derived from the Greek word for a "vein" or "strap," probably in reference to the vein or strap-shaped parts of the flower.

Habenaria malintana is the largest and most showy of the native Habenarias. The root system comprises a saclike tuber from which a fourteen- to eighteen-inch-long stem develops. This terminates in a spikelike raceme of white flowers while the leaves are ovate, one inch long; about five in number and very smooth.

The flowers which are large for the genus and showy are white, odorless, and about one inch in diameter. Sepals, ovate, lanceolate, much bigger than the petals, are curved inward, and smaller. The labellum is variable, sometimes lanceolate, or spear shaped. Stamens are in two saclike callosities and the ovary is winged, green;i;h, and about one inch long and onequarter of an inch wide.

The tubers of H. malintana are reported to be edible. This species. is common in Bontoc, Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Zambales, Bataan, Rizal, Luzon, as well as Mindanao. It has also been reported from Burma.

Habenaria Leibergii is another interesting Habenaria, distinguishcd by its bipartite divided petals, which are split nearly to the base into two portions, and the tripartite labellum, which is divided into three segments. The whole flower is less than an inch in diameter.

The plant differs from the other species in having the leaves placed farther apart, the largest at the center of the stem. The leaves are ovate and pointed. Collectors bring this botanical orchid from Lanao, Mount Mariveles and Bataan Province. It blooms during July.

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