Friday, January 28, 2011

Pleurothallis aristata, a highly beautiful but pretty small native orchid of Puerto Rico

A head on view of a flower

The fingertip in the photo can give a sense of scale to judge the size of the flower

Plants of this species growing in a dead branch that had fallen from a tree but was held up in the air because it had become tangled in a mass of vines

I have found Pleurothallis aristata in the upper reaches of the Luquillo Sierra.  Although it is considered uncommon I have not confronted much difficulty finding it.  I have seen it from time to time growing in trees and twigs alongside some roads.  The thing is that I have not found it for long in any particular place.  For a time many plants could be found growing on the trunks of the tree ferns in the higest of the visitor’s areas of the Caribbean National Forest of El Yunque but the last time I was there they all had disappeared.  I found a good cluster of plants on a tangle of fallen branches but these are doomed to die in the long run as the twigs decay in the eternal heat and moisture of the rainforest.  But I am sure I will find it again elsewhere if I keep a sharp eye out for it.  This plant has a vast geographical distribution which includes Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, the Windward Islands and Central and South America. 
The flowers of this plant are quite good looking but their tiny size and the fact that the flowers are displayed facing downward practically guarantees that in its natural habitat it will remain unnoticed except for a very few orchidists that are exceedingly fond of miniatures.  This plant makes small clumps that usually have a few inflorescences with open flowers or seed pods.  It is said to bloom from spring into summer.
I have not seen this plant in cultivation locally and very few orchidists in PR seem to be aware or interested in this plant.  The only photo of a flower similar to those I have seen in the wild in PR was from a plant growing in a collection in Paris, France.  Photos from other sites, such as, show flowers with somewhat different patterns that the ones I have seen in PR.
I suspect that with proper care this plant would be able to grow satisfactorily in the warmer coastal areas of Puerto Rico if someone desired to grow it.  But at the moment there seems to be absolutely no interest in this plant from the local horticultural community.

1 comment:

BRENTON said...

Thank you for your wonderful blog Ricardo. I very much enjoy reading the blog on a regular basis.
I have been supporting two orchid conservation organisations.
Even though I am in Australia. The Americas have so many fabulous orchids. Reserves and guards are desparately needed.