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On-line version ISSN 1409-3871

Lankesteriana vol.15 n.1 Cartago Jan./Apr. 2015


A new and previously misidentified cyrtochilum (orchidaceae: oncidiinae) from the high plains of central Ecuador

Stig Dalström1*


A new and previously misidentified, small-flowered Cyrtochilum (Orchidaceae: Oncidiinae) from central Ecuador is described, illustrated with a line drawing and photographs, and compared with the species that it has previously been taxonomically mixed-up with by the author. The new species is readily distinguished by the dark yellow, gibbous and carnose lip callus, versus more elongate, longitudinally furrowed and bilobed calli for similar species.

Key words: Cyrtochilum, Orchidaceae, Oncidiinae, new species, Ecuador, Azuay


The Cyrtochilum species described here has previously been misidentified by the author as "Cyrtochilum viminale (Rchb.f.) Dalström" (2001, 2010). However, that name refers to a different species with a different floral morphology. Our new, but well-known species represents an enigmatic paradox. It is very common along roads in the south-central highlands of Ecuador, particularly around the old city of Cuenca. Plants can sometimes be found growing on the road itself, clinging tenaciously to the dirt while the relentless traffic constitutes a permanent threat to crush the plants. Anybody that passes by and has an interest in orchids will sooner or later notice the flowers and stop to investigate, and often make herbarium specimens. The peculiar thing, however, is that our new Cyrtochilum is most rarely encountered in herbaria from older collections. The reason for this may have an interesting explanation. It seems plausible that before modern transportation entered the stage (and the Ecuadorian wilderness) this species occurred only as terrestrials in remote, scrub and grass vegetation, not seen by anybody except occasional natives passing by. Professional collectors probably avoided this seemingly 'empty' land that did not seem to host any commercial rewards. As roads began to crisscross these relatively flat and engineering friendly areas, however, the disturbed road cuts offered suitable habitats for the orchid.

In addition, passing vehicles loaded with livestock, plants and miscellaneous equipment may have helped dispersing the seeds, with new populations establishing along the roads as a consequence.


Cyrtochilum soennemarkii Dalström sp.nov.

TYPE: Ecuador. Azuay, km 52 from Cuenca towards Loja, in full sun along roadside, at 3250 m, 13 Dec. 1982, S. Dalström 354 (holotype: SEL). Figs. 1, 2.

Diagnosis. Cyrtochilum soennemarkii (Figs. 1-4) is distinguished by the tall and erect loosely flowered inflorescences, carrying dull brownish to clear yellow flowers commonly with a purplish column and a bright yellow to orange, basally gibbous, carnose and somewhat tuberous callus. Cyrtochilum soennemarkii differs from the similar but previously misapplied Cyrtochilum viminale Rchb.f.) Dalström (Fig. 5) by the gibbous and convex lip with a carnose and bright yellow to orange callus, versus a basally straight, slightly elongated, smooth, dorsally furrowed and bifurcated callus of the same ivory white color as the lip lamina for C. viminale. Cyrtochilum soennemarki is distinguished from all other yellow-flowered and superficially similar species by the gibbous lip with a carnose and slightly tuberous callus.
Terrestrial herb. Pseudobulbs caespitose, ovoid, unifoliate or bifoliate, ca. 5 x 3 cm, subtended basally by 5 to 6 distichous sheaths, the uppermost foliaceous. Leaves subpetiolate, conduplicate, linear elliptic to obovate, acute to obtuse, sometimes apiculate, 22-34 x 1.5-1.7 cm. Inflorescences axillary and arising from the uppermost sheaths, erect to slightly arching, to ca. 80 cm long almost straight panicle, with widely spaced, to ca. 5 cm long and to 5-flowered side-branches; bracts appressed, scale-like, 0.2-1.2 cm long; pedicel with ovary 0.5-1.5 cm long. Flowers campanulate to stellate; dorsal sepal dull olive brown on type, but generally yellow and sometimes with purple stains near the base, unguiculate, broadly elliptic to obovate, obtuse, apiculate, ca. 8 x 4 mm; lateral sepals similar in color, slightly oblique, narrowly unguiculate to slightly spathulate, ovate, acute, ca. 10-11 x 3.0-3.5 mm; petals similar in color, broadly unguiculate, obliquely ovate, acute, ca. 8.5 x 4.0 mm; lip similar in color, rigidly fused to the base of the column, then gibbose and recurved away from the column, apically concave, truncate, broadly ovate to indistinctly 3-lobed, lateral lobes rotund, front lobe bluntly obtuse, ca. 7.5 x 6 mm; callus bright yellow, of a fleshy and broad, gibbose, central, longitudinally grooved, fleshy keel, extending from the base up to ca. 1/2 of the length of the lamina, ending in a pair of rounded, somewhat diverging angles, with an intermediate apical knob; column variably purplish, stocky, dorsally straight, ventrally concave, with concave lateral flanks, ending in a rounded lobe on each side of the stigmatic surface, ca. 4 mm long; anther cap purplish to yellow, campanulate, rostrate, dorsally lobulate; pollinarium of two obovoid, cleft, or folded, pollinia with an ovate, ca. 1 mm long stipe on a pulvinate viscidium.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL SEEN: Ecuador. Canar, uplands of "Huairacaja", 10-20 km NE Azogues, 3600 m, 2 Feb. 1945, W. H. Camp E-1788 (NY). Canar, near San Marcos, NE Azogues, "1000" m [most certainly 3000 m; author's note], 13 Apr. 1945, W. E. Camp E-2602 (AMES). Canar, Azoguez to Taday, 3300 m, 9 Mar. 1992, S. Dalström 1630 (SEL). Canar, Azogues— Taday, km 16, 3300 m, 2 Feb. 1988, U. Molau et al. 2849 (QCA). Azuay, Cuenca—Loja, km 78, 3000 m, 20 Sep. 1980, C. A. Luer et al. 5507 (SEL). Azuay, Cuenca—Loja, km 52, 3250 m, 13 Dec. 1982, S. Dalström 343 (SEL). Azuay, Cuenca—Loja, km 42, 2900 m, 30 Nov. 1984, C.H. Dodson & B.Malo 15490 (MO, QCNE, RPSC). Azuay, Cuenca—Loja, km 67, 3380 m, 30 Jul. 1959, H. G. Barclay & P. Juajibioy 8573 (AMES, MO). Azuay, Sigsig, 2800 m, 6 May 1981, J. Kuhn 44 (SEL); Cuenca—Loja, km 30, 3360 m, 29 Dec. 80, M. Madison et al. 7407 (SEL). Azuay, Sigsig—Ludo, km 5, 3100 - 3300 m, 78° 50'W, 3° 05'S, 17 Nov. 1983, B. Eriksen & B. B. Larsen 45727 (AAU). Azuay, W Andes of Cuenca, 2400 - 2800 m, F. C. Lehmann 8069 (AMES). Azuay, Cuenca—Loja, km 80, 3000 m, 17 Jul. 1977, C. A. Luer et al. 1723 (SEL). Azuay, Cuenca—Loja, Paramo de Tinajillos, Sta Rosa, 3000 m, 2 Nov. 1988, G. Harling & L. Andersson 25580 (AMES). Azuay, Cuenca—Loja, 65 km S of Cumbe, 2900, 3 Nov. 1988, G. Harling & L. Andersson 25622 (AMES). Azuay, Cuenca—Loja, Paramo de Tinajillos, Sta Rosa, 3200, 4 Nov. 1988, G.    Harling & L. Andersson 25636 (AMES). Azuay, Ona—Rio Yacuambi, 2600 m, 10 Sep. 1945, F. Prieto P-206 (AMES). Azuay, Sigsig—Gualaquiza, Rio Altarurucu, 2800 m, 13 Apr. 1968, G. Harling et al. 8285 (AMES, GB). Azuay, Sigsig, 10 km S, 3200 m, 3 Aug. 1975, C. A. Luer et al. 406, 421 & 416 (SEL). Azuay, Km 40 S Cuenca, ca. 3600 m, 20 Sept. 1944, I. L. Wiggins 10767, 10823 (AMES). Azuay, Cuenca— Loja, km 65 - 70, 3400 m, 3 Jan. 1981, H. Balslev 1423 (AMES). Loja, Loja—Cuenca, km 65, at pass above Saraguro, 3100 m, 20 Sep. 1980, C. H. Dodson et al. 10500 (SEL, MO). Loja, Loja—Cuenca, 12 km N Saraguro, 3000 m, 3 Jan. 1981, H. Balslev 1405 (NY). Loja, Cuenca—Loja, near Saraguro 3000 m, 5 Mar. 1977, C. A. Luer et al. 1524 (SEL). Loja, Loja—Cuenca, vicinity of Saraguro, 27 Sep. 1918, J. N. Rose et al. 23141 (US). Loja, Saraguro—Tenta, 2700 m, 16 Sep. 1980, J. Jaramillo 3828 (AAU, QCA, QCNE). Loja, San Lucas to Ona, 2600, 7 Sep. 1923, Hitchcock 21574 (US). Loja, Cuenca—Loja, km 80, 3000 m, 19 Dec. 1957, C. H. Dodson & G. P. Frymire 257 (SEL). Loja, Saraguro to Loja, 3100 m, 6 Feb. 1993, S. Dalström 1854 (SEL). Loja, Cuenca—Loja, km 140, 2800 m, 10 Feb. 1978, C. A. Luer et al. 2504 (SEL). Loja, Km 78 S Cuenca, ca. 3000 m, C. A. Luer et al. 5510 (SEL). Morona-Santiago, Sigsig— Chiguinda, 3000 m, 11 Aug. 1990, A. Hirtz et al. 5047 (QCNE). Morona Santiago, Gualaceo—Chiquinda, near Chiquinda, 3200 m, Jan. 1989, A. Hirtz et al. 4015 (MO).

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT: Cyrtochilum soennemarkii is reported from the high altitude, grassy and shrubby plains of the Ecuadorean provinces of Azuay, Canar and Loja, at the altitude of 2400 - 3600 m.

EPONYMY: Named in honor of Jan Sonnemark of Halmstad, Sweden, who contributed substantially to the understanding of the true identity of this species.


I thank Jan Sonnemark for many years of great companionship in the field.

Literature cited

Dalström, S. (2001). A synopsis of the genus Cyrtochilum (Orchidaceae; Oncidiinae): Taxonomic reevaluation and new combinations. Lindleyana, 16(2), 56-80.         [ Links ]

Dalström, S. (2010). Cyrtochilum. In Harling, G. & Persson, C. (Eds.), Flora of Ecuador No. 87 (pp. 18-198). Sweden: Goteborg University.         [ Links ]

1. 2304 Ringling Boulevard, unit 119, Sarasota FL 34237, USA Lankester Botanical Garden, University of Costa Rica, Cartago, Costa Rica National Biodiversity Centre, Serbithang, Bhutan,

Received 24 September 2014. Accepted 16 February 2015.

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