Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ionopsis satyrioides, an orchid native of Puerto Rico that is a twig epiphyte

Close up of a flower 

A close up of the inflorescence

Inflorescence on the plant

Sometimes the seed will germinate on dead leaves

Ionopsis satyrioides is an epiphytic orchid that I have seen in the Rio Abajo forest and elsewhere in the island of Puerto Rico.  I have found it growing as a twig epiphyte on the branches of wild guava trees.  I have seen the lifecycle of this orchid unfold in a wild grove of guava trees.  In the first stage the seedlings invade the branches and twigs of a tree.   Most of the twigs that host them die, sometimes a whole branch will die.  As the twigs die their leaves fall and the orchids are exposed to full sunlight.  The mature plants, which are fairly small, then produce their few flowered inflorescences.   Many of the flowers are pollinated and produce seed.  By the time the seed pods have opened and released the seeds the twigs are in an advanced state of rot and most of the plants fall to the ground and die.  Sometimes if the guava tree is small and has been colonized by a large number of orchids, the entire tree will die.  I have rescued fallen plants and set them on other branches but they die anyway after they fall from their tree of birth.  On rare occasions you can see plants of this species in captivity, almost all with their roots still clinging to the remains of the twig where they grew in the wild.  But the existence of these plants in captivity seems to be as ephemeral as the life of the fallen plants in the wild.

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