Orchids of Tropical America: Features
Includes 122 of the most commonly seen groups of orchids in Central and South America
Easy to use identification system quickly allows you to recognize almost any orchid flower
Written in a clear and engaging style, without obscure botanical terminology
Illustrated with over 480 stunning photographs of orchids
Invaluable as a field guide for orchid tourists visiting tropical America - from Mexico to Brazil
Equally useful as an introduction for newcomers to the world of orchids
Replete with rich accounts of the ecology, medicinal uses and history of each group
Dr. Joe Meisel is vice president of the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation, and has worked for over a decade in Ecuador conducting research, teaching field ecology, and working with local landowners and communities to protect orchid habitat.
Dr. Ron Kaufmann is a professor at the University of San Diego, a long-time orchid grower, founding member of the Orchid Conservation Alliance and chair of the San Diego County Orchid Society's Conservation Committee.
Dr. Franco Pupulin is the orchid curator of the Lankester Botanical Garden in Costa Rica, editor-in-chief of Lankesteriana, and frequent contributor to scientific journals on the subject of orchid taxonomy.
Description: Zygopetalum flowers are distinguished by greenish sepals and petals, both heavily marked with purple splotches, a spreading lip usually white with purple radiating stripes, and a pronounced yoke-like bulge on the lip’s base. Flower: Large (2-4”) flowers are usually strongly fragrant, with a scent resembling hyacinths. The genus name is Greek for “yoke” and “petal,” referring to the raised, crescent-shaped bulge (callus), scored with parallel furrows like a plowed field. In some flowers, this callus better resembles the rear half of a horse saddle. The column is broad, robust, usually with a blunt yellow tip. Plant: Most species have egg-shaped pseudobulbs (2-3” tall), becoming grooved with age, wrapped in brownish fibrous sheaths. Long (to 18”) leaves emerge from the pseudobulb tip, and are deciduous in dry months. Leaves are narrow at the base, but broaden (to 2”) farther up and exhibit prominent veins. Inflorescences arise from the pseudobulb base bearing up to eight flowers. Similar: See Batemannia, Galeottia, Promenaea.
Distribution & Diversity: Some 15 species flourish terrestrially, occasionally as epiphytes, in lower and middle-altitude wet forests. They occur from Venezuela to Peru and Brazil, where they reach their peak abundance.
Ecology & History: Zygopetalum plants, sometimes called Ladybird Orchids, probably are visited by male euglossine bees seeking fragrances produced on the lip. The violet petal markings may help attract pollinators, as yet unidentified, that respond strongly to visual cues. Z. maculatum and Z. crinitum employ an uncommon strategy for improving reproductive efficiency: successfully pollinated flowers close slightly, indicating they are no longer receptive. These flowers, however, remain healthy and colorful for up to three months, whereas unpollinated flowers wilt and fall off after only one month. This tactic reduces the chance that a bee visits a pollinated flower, while simultaneously maintaining the magnetism of the overall floral display so that bees are attracted to unpollinated flowers. Unvisited flowers still may reproduce via apomixis, an asexual approach that yields seeds without fertilization, and offspring that are veritable clones of the parent. Evolution of these unique strategies may allow Zygopetalum to reproduce where suitable pollinators are rare, or absent altogether.
Sample Genus Accounts