Herbarium Digital Library


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

TO THE ORCHID FANCIER, THE GENERA LIPARIS, MALAXIS, AND Habenaria are often confusing because of their resemblance to each other, and considerable difficulty is encountered in distinguishing between them, as well as in identifying the individual species of each group. The genus Habenaria, as encountered in the Philippine species, is entirely terrestrial and develops from an underground tuber. The other two genera, however, Liparis and Malaxis, include native species that are terrestrial, semi-terrestrial (growing on decaying trunks of trees), or epiphytes.

Plants of the genera Liparis and Malaxis often resemble each other and are both extremely variable in habit. Some species have only a narrow stem while others develop basal pseudo-bulbs and a thickening of the stem. The principal difference between these two genera is in the construction of the labellum of the flowers. Those of Malaxis usually have a small circular or heart-shaped labellum, while the labellum of Liparis species are, small and pointed. The column of the genus Liparis is long and recurved, while in Malaxis it is much smaller. Habenarias can be differentiated from Malaxis and Liparis by the presence of a spur in the labellum.

The word Liparis means "shiny," and probably refers to the shiny leaves and pseudo-bulbs encountered in some of the species of the genus. It is a widely distributed group of terrestrial or epiphytic plants, found almost throughout the world from the subarctic to the tropics. Of three hundred and fifty odd species assigned to the group, possibly thirty-five are encountered in the Philippines.

The genus has two well-defined sections. One is the group which resembles the genus Malaxis, while the other is quite distinct and is often referred to by some authorities as a separate genus. This is the section CESTICHIS. Most of the plants

of the latter section have grass-like leaves and flowers that develop from short spikes with prominent distichous bracts. The first section usually has shiny pseudo-bulbs with two or three fleshy leaves and terminal racemes.

Liparis Elmeri, a member of the CESTICHIS section, is a common and widely distributed species encountered quite generally at higher elevations throughout the various islands of the Philippines, as well as Sumatra, Java, the Celebes, Borneo and New Guinea. The crowded, glossy pseudo-bulbs of this species are about two to 21/2 inches long and are crowned with two yellowish leaves. The erect inflorescence, which arises between the leaves, is about six to seven inches long, exceeding the leaves and is somewhat fleshy The flowers are slightly fragrant, and greenish-white suffused with orange. The recurved sepals are wider than the petals, orange in color, while the long curved column is yellowish, as is the ovary.

Liparis condulabulban is representative of the other section of Liparis and is an epiphyte, which is found at medium altitudes. The plant is about eight to twelve inches tall and has a terminal flower spike of small yellowish flowers.

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