Characteristics of orchid species


1. Apostasioideae


Apostasia shenzhenica 

Diagnosis: Terrestrial plant; roots with fleshy, tuberous part; leaves plicate; raceme axillary, recurved; sepals and petals similar; medium petal or lip slightly different from petals; column with two fertile stamens and a staminode; stigma 3-lobed; pollen not cohering to form pollinia; fruit a capsule; seeds subglobose, with a rigid testa. (1)

Description: Suffruticose plant. Rhizome with many tuberoid-bearing roots; tuberoids subglobose, 2–3 mm in diam. Stem rather slender, slightly ligneous towards the base, monochotomous-branched, 8–12 cm long, 1.8–2.2 mm thick, with a cylindrical sheath 5–8 mm long below the middle, and 7–10 or more leaves above. Leaves ovate or ovate-lanceolate, 1.6–3.2 cm × 6–12 mm, apex with a filiform awn 1–1.5 mm long, base shortly petioled; petiole dilated and amplexicaul basally. Inflorescences paniculate, terminal, recurved, 1–2.2 cm long, with 4–9 flowers; bracts ovate, 3–4 mm long; pedicel and ovary 4–6 mm long; flowers pale green-yellow, not opening; sepals similar, narrowly elliptic, 2.7–3.5 × 0.9–1.1 mm, abaxially with a longitudinal ridge extending to form a cusp at apex; petals similar, suboblong, 2.5–3 × 1–1.2 mm, carinate abaxially; column terete, straight, ca. 0.5 mm long; stamens 2; free filaments ca. 0.3 mm long; anthers linear-lanceolate, 1.2–1.3 mm long, 0.5–0.6 mm wide, with two locules equal at base; style 1.2–1.3 mm long, terminated by a slightly 3-lobed stigma; staminode manifestly longer than the style and ca. 2/3 in length adnate to it. Capsules cylindrical, green, 1.1–1.3 cm long, 2.5–3 mm in diam.


Neuwiedia malipoensis

Diagnosis: Terrestrial plant; roots stout; stem somewhat lignified; leaves plicate; raceme terminal; sepals and lateral petals similar; lip quite different from petals, with a subterete claw at base; column with three fertile stamens; stigma 3-lobed; pollen not cohering to form pollinia; fruit a berry; seeds subglobose, with a rigid testa. (2).

Description: Terrestrial plants 65–70 cm tall; rhizome 13–15 cm, 1.5–1.7 cm in diam., with evident nodes, bearing some stout roots. Leaves many, nearly tufted on the short stem; leaf blades oblong to lanceolate, 30–63 × 3.3–4.8 cm, apex long acuminate; petiole 12–20 cm, margin membranous, base slightly dilated and clasping. Scape to 35 cm; raceme ca. 11 cm, 20-flowered or more; rachis and flowers, with glandular trichomes; floral bracts ovate to lanceolate, 1–1.7 cm, abaxially with glandular trichomes. Flowers not resupinate, white, except for the yellow linear callus on the lip, not opening widely; sepals narrowly elliptic, 1.6–1.9 x 0.35-0.4 cm, hooded apically, shortly aristate toward abaxial apex, abaxially with glandular trichomes, dorsal sepal usually slightly smaller than lateral pair; petals broadly cuneate, obovate, 1.6–1.8 x 0.5-0.6 cm, apex mucronate, abaxially sparsely glandular pubescent; labellum bipartite; blade more or less widely obovate, concave, margins erose, base narrowing into a subterete claw, with a fleshy linear callus extending from the base of the claw distally for 2/3 of the blade length; column erect, 10–11 mm; stamens subequal to stigma; filaments 3.3–3.7 × 0.6–0.7 mm; anthers linear, 5.8–6.2 mm; ovary elliptic, 7–8 mm; style 6–6.5 mm, subterete; stigma 3-lobed. Immature capsule ellipsoid.


2. Vanilloideae


Vanilla shenzhenica

Diagnosis: Scandent plant, 100–150 cm long; leaves many, alternate; inflorescence axillary, often 4-flowered; flowers not fully opening; lip 4.5 cm long, connate to both sides of column forming a trumpet-shaped tube; pollinia granular-farinaceous, without caudicle or viscidium; seeds subglobose, with stout testa (5, 8).

Description: Stem scandent, 1–1.5 m, with internodes 5–10 cm. Leaf blade elliptic, 10–20 × 5.5–9.5 cm, base shortly petiolate. Inflorescence 3–5 cm, usually 4-flowered; floral bracts oblong, 1.8–2.1 cm, leathery. Flowers not fully opening, yellowish green, with purple-red lip and white appendage. Sepals and petals oblong-lanceolate to elliptic, 4.4–4.8 × 1.6–2.8 cm; lip broadly obovate when spreading, 4.4–4.6 cm, basally connate for ca. 3/4 length to both sides of column forming a trumpetshaped tube, apical margin undulate, adaxially tufted with a retrorse white fimbriate appendage composed of many thin pieces, with 3–5 rows of small horn-shaped appendages above middle, and with 2 lamellae extending from base up to fimbriate appendage. Column 3.8–4.2 cm. Fl. Feb–Mar.

Forests or cliffs along valleys; below 300 m. S Guangdong.


Galeola faberi 

Diagnosis: Mycotrophic plant, to 100–200 cm tall, leafless; stem reddish brown; sepals and petals similar, lip unlobed; pollinia 2, glandular -farinaceous, without caudicle or viscidium; fruit fleshy, indehiscent; seeds subglobose, with broad surrounding wing (5).

Description: Herbs, 1–2 m tall. Rhizome nearly creeping, stout, to 2 cm in diam., nodes with sparse broadly ovate scales. Stem erect, reddish brown, base ± ligneous, upper part sparsely shortly rusty tomentose. Panicle composed of terminal and lateral racemes; lateral raceme 5–10 cm, usually 4–7-flowered; peduncle often 2–4 cm; sterile bracts at base of raceme lanceolate, 1– 2 cm, glabrous; floral bracts lanceolate or ovate-lanceolate, 1–4 mm, abaxially glabrous; pedicel and ovary often 1–2 cm, ± rusty pubescent. Flowers yellow, ca. 3.5 cm in diam. Sepals narrowly elliptic or suboblong, 2.8–3 × 0.6–0.8 cm, abaxially slightly and very shortly rusty tomentose, apex obtuse. Petals similar to sepals, glabrous; lip obovate, ca. 2 × 1.2 cm, adaxially with many thick longitudinal veins, basal part concave, unlobed, margin incurved and irregularly incised and ± undulate; veins irregularly lamellate or crenate, mostly on distal part. Column 8–10 mm. Fl. May–Jul.

Humus-rich and humid places in open forests or bamboo forests; 1800–2300 m. C Guizhou, SW Sichuan, NW to SE Yunnan.


3. Cypripedioideae


Paphiopedilum armeniacum 

Diagnosis: Terrestrial or lithophytic plant; leaves basal, distichous, conduplicate; inflorescence often 1-flowered; flower yellow; lip pouched; lateral sepals united to form a synsepal; fertile stamens 2; staminode large; stigma papillate; pollen not cohering to form pollinia; seeds fusiform in shape (3–5).

Description: Plants terrestrial or lithophytic, with 1 to several creeping stolons more than 10 cm × 1.5–2.5 mm. Leaves 5–7, distichous; blade abaxially densely purple spotted and carinate, adaxially tessellated with dark and light green, oblong or linear-oblong, 6–12 × 1.8–2.3 cm, thickly leathery, margin serrulate, apex acute or sometimes tridenticulate. Scape erect, terminating in 1 or rarely 2 flowers; peduncle yellowish green, densely marked with purple, 13–28 cm, with white short hairs; floral bract yellowish green, marked with purple, ovate, conduplicate, 1.4–1.8 cm, abaxially puberulent toward base; pedicel and ovary (2–)3–4.5 cm, shortly hairy. Flower (3–)7–9 cm in diam., pale yellow to golden yellow, sometimes slightly flushed with pale green, with pale maroon veins on staminode, usually with many rows of maroon speckles on inner bottom of lip. Dorsal sepal ovate, 1.8–4.8 × (0.8–)1.4–2.2 cm, adaxially pubescent toward base, minutely ciliate, acute at apex; synsepal similar to dorsal sepal, slightly smaller, obtusely bicarinate abaxially. Petals broadly ovate-elliptic to suborbicular, (1.5–)2.8–5.3 × 0.9– 4.8 cm, adaxially white villous toward base, ciliate, slightly undulate at margin, rounded at apex; lip subglobose or somewhat flattened globose, (1–)4–6 × (0.5–)3.5–4 cm, apical margin involute. Staminode broadly ovate or ovate-orbicular, (5–)12–20 × (5–)12–20 mm, margin recurved, apex acute. Fl. Feb–Apr.

● Rocky and well-drained places or in crevices of rocks on woody or bushy slopes in limestone areas; 1400–2100 m. W Yunnan (along Nu Jiang).


Cypripedium singchii

Diagnosis: Terrestrial plant, over 1 m tall; leaves 9–10, plicate; inflorescence 4- to 7-flowered; ovary glandular-hairy; lip densely covered with white appendages composed of many moniliform fleshy hairs on its basal incurved side-lobes and basal back surface; pollen not cohering to form pollinia; seeds fusiform in shape (6,7).

Description: Terrestrial plants, 1–1.6 m tall, with a short rhizome and many roots 2–3 mm thick. Stem erect, 0.8–1 cm thick, pubescent, with several sheaths 2.5–10 cm long toward the base, and 9–10 leaves above the middle. Leaves elliptic-oblong to elliptic-lanceolate, 15–33 cm long, 4.5–11 cm wide, acuminate at apex, glabrous above, puberulous below, more or less ciliate, base with a short petiole 1–2 cm long. Inflorescence terminal, racemose, with 4–7 flowers; peduncle 10–21 cm long; rachis 15–19 cm long, white-pubescent (pink-pubescent in dry); bracts linear-lanceolate, 1.5–2.5 cm long, 4–5 mm wide, more or less reflexed, white-pubescent; pedicel and ovary 3.6–4.8 cm long, densely glandular-hairy; flowers fragrant; dorsal sepal and synsepal green or yellow-green, sometimes tinged with purple-brown; petals yellow-green, often marked with purple-brown especially on adaxial surface; lip yellow-green, marked with purple-brown; dorsal sepal orbicular-ovate, 2.5–3.3 cm long, 2.5–3.1 cm wide, acuminate, densely glandular-hairy and with 3 raised veins abaxially; synsepal orbicular to broadly ovate, 2.8–3.3 cm long, 2.5–3.5 cm wide, deeply bilobed at apex, glandular-hairy abaxially; petals subelliptic, 3–3.2 cm long, 1.6–2 cm wide, acute at apex, with many raised veins abaxially; lip deep pouched, complanately subglobose, densely covered with white appendages composed of many moniliform fleshy hairs ca. 0.6 mm long on its basal incurved side-lobes and basal back surface; pouch 5–5.3 cm long, 3.5–3.6 cm wide, with its mouth ca. 1 cm in diam., glabrous on both inner and outer surfaces; staminode looking like a cobra head, 4–6 mm long, upper part 1.5–2 mm wide, stalked basally. Capsules 4.2–4.5 cm long, 1.2–1.3 cm thick, containing 6000–18000 seeds. Seeds 4–4.5 mm long, ca. 1 mm thick.


4. Orchidoideae


Hemipilia forrestii 

Diagnosis: Terrestrial plant, with subterranean tubers; leaf single; inflorescence several-flowered; flowers rose-purple; lip sessile, with an attenuate spur to 3 cm long; pollinia sectile; seeds fusiform in shape (5).

Description: Plants ca. 20 cm tall. Tubers ellipsoid, 3–4 (–5) cm. Stem 1-leaved. Leaf ovate-oblong, ca. 4.5 × 2.5 cm, base subcordate, apex acute. Inflorescence ca. 17 cm; rachis ca. 6 cm, several flowered; floral bracts lanceolate or ovate-lanceolate, 10–12 mm, apex acuminate. Flowers rose-purple; pedicel and ovary ca. 20 mm. Dorsal sepal erect, cymbiform, ovate-oblong, ca. 6 mm, apex obtuse; lateral sepals ovate, oblique, concave, ca. 12 mm, apex subobtuse, recurved. Petals ovate-oblong, ca. 5 mm, apex obtuse; lip sessile, quadrate-obovate, ca. 13 × 10 mm, margin irregularly crenate, apex truncate; spur attenuate, ca. 30 mm, slightly incurved, apex subacute. Column ca. 5 mm; rostellum ovate-oblong, ca. 3 mm. Fl. Sep.

Crevices on rocky slopes; 1200–3000 m. SW Sichuan, SE Xizang, NW Yunnan. This species is clearly a close ally of Hemipilia flabellata, though with larger flower parts and a longer spur. No specimens have been seen by us to confirm its identity.


Habenaria delavayi 

Diagnosis: Terrestrial plant, with subterranean tubers; inflorescence 7- to 20-flowered; flowers white; sepals 4–5 mm long; petals linear; lip deeply 3-lobed, spurred; spur clavate, 1.2–1.4 cm long; pollinia sectile; seeds fusiform in shape (5).

Description: Plants 9–35 cm tall. Tubers oblong or ovoid, 1–2 × 1–1.5 cm, fleshy. Stem erect, terete, 3–5 mm in diam., glabrous, base with 1 or 2 tubular sheaths, with 3 or rarely 4(–6) leaves in a dense basal rosette, and with 1–5 bractlike leaves above. Leaf blade orbicular or ovate, 1.5–5 × 1.5–4 cm, slightly fleshy, base obtuse-rounded, abruptly narrowed and amplexicaul, apex obtuse or acute. Raceme 6–15 cm, loosely 7–20-flowered; floral bracts lanceolate, ca. 1/2 length of ovary, apex aristate; ovary twisted, slightly arching, fusiform, glabrous, including pedicel 1.3–1.8 cm. Flowers white. Dorsal sepal erect, broadly elliptic, ca. 4 × 4 mm, concave, abaxially keeled and toward apex pubescent, 3-veined; lateral sepals reflexed, lanceolate, 4–5 × ca. 2.5 mm, 3-veined, apex acute, abaxially and along margin pubescent. Petals linear, ca. 6 × 0.8 mm, base twisted, 1-veined, apex acute; lip spurred, deeply 3-lobed above base; lobes narrow, equal in width, stout; lateral lobes linear-cuneate, 8–9 × 0.8–1 mm; mid-lobe linear, ± subcylindric, ca. 7 × 0.7 mm, adaxially channeled; spur pendulous, slightly curved, clavate, 1.2–1.4 cm, longer than ovary, with 1 slightly incurved, subulate appendage at front margin of mouth; pollinia obovoid; caudicles nearly oblong, slender; viscidium ovate; stigmas clavate, apex papillate. Fl. Jun–Aug.

Forests, grassy places in forests, shrubby grasslands; 1500–3000 m. Guizhou, W Sichuan, NW to SE Yunnan.



5. Epidendroideae


Cymbidium sinense

Diagnosis: Terrestrial plant, with pseudobulbs enclosed in leaf bases. Leaves 3–5, lorate; inflorescence subbasal, many-flowered; lip 3-lobed, spurless, 3-lamellate; pollinia 4, in two pairs, waxy, with a viscidium; seeds fusiform in shape (5, 9).

Description: Pseudobulbs ovoid, 2.5–6 × 1.5–2.5 cm, enclosed in leaf bases. Leaves 3–5, deep green, lorate, 45–110 (–200) × (1.5–) 2–3 cm, thinly leathery, articulate 3.5–7 cm from base. Inflorescence arising from base of pseudobulb, erect, somewhat robust, (40–)50–90 cm, usually slightly longer than leaves; rachis 10–20- or more flowered; floral bracts 4–8 mm and mostly less than 1/2 length of ovary, though basal bract more than 10 mm. Flowers usually strongly fragrant, variable in color, usually dark purple or purplish brown with a paler lip; pedicel and ovary 20–25 mm. Sepals narrowly oblong or narrowly elliptic, 22–35 × 5–7 mm, apex acute. Petals nearly narrowly ovate, 20–27 × 6–10 mm, apex acute; lip ovate-oblong, 17–25(–30) mm, not fused to basal margins of column, obscurely 3-lobed; lateral lobes erect, loosely clasping column; mid-lobe recurved, oblong-ovate, ca. 14 × 10 mm, margin slightly undulate; disk minutely papillate-pubescent, with 2 longitudinal lamellae extending from near base of lip to base of mid-lobe; lamellae converging in their apical half and forming a short tube. Column slightly arcuate, 12–15 mm, narrowly winged; pollinia 4, in 2 pairs, broadly ovoid. Capsule narrowly ellipsoid, 60–70 × 15–20 mm. Fl. (Oct–) Nov–Mar, fr. Dec– May. 2n = 40. Forests, wet and well-drained shaded places in thickets along streamsides; 300–2000 m. S Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, SW Guizhou, Hainan, S Jiangxi, SC Sichuan (Emei Shan), Taiwan, Yunnan [India, Japan (Ryukyu Islands), Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam].


Phalaenopsis equestris

Epiphytes. Leaves variable in size and shape, oblong-elliptic to oblong-ovate to elliptic, acute to subobtuse, green without any markings, generally to 20×6.5 cm but larger in some populations. Inflorescences densely many-flowered racemes or panicles, long-pedunculate, the peduncles erect, the rachis raching-subpendent, the apex frequently forming a plantlet following flowering, the floral bracts insignificant, to 2 mm long. Flowers variable in color and size, opening simultaneously, typically the sepals and petals white or pale pink with a central pink suffusion, the lip solid rose or red, the callus white or yellow +/- rose or red spotting, the column rose, the anther white. Sepal subsimilar, subequal, lightly reflexed, oblong-elliptic, acute, to 1.7×0.8 cm, the lateral sepal somewhat oblique, divergent. Petal elliptic-rhombic, clawed, obtuse to subacute, to 1.5×0.8 cm. Lip three- lobed, to 1.4 cm long, to 1.6 cm wide across the expanded lateral lobed, the lateral lobes oblong-oblanceolate, obtuse-rounded, erect-incurved, the midlobe ovate-trullate, acute with a laterally constricted blunt tip, the callus solitary, peltate, quadrangular with a truncate apex. Column lightly arching, to 0.9 cm long. Pedicle and ovary to 2 cm long.

  Distribution: The Philippines and Taiwan .



1. Chen, L. J., Liu, Z. J. (2011) Apostasia shenzhenica, a new species of Apostasioideae (Orchidaceae) from China. Plant Science Journal. 29 (1): 38–41.

2. Liu, Z. J., Chen, L. J., Liu, K. W. (2012) Neuwiedia malipoensis, a New Species (Orchidaceae, Apostasioideae) from Yunnan, China. Novon. 22(1): 1–5.

3. Liu, Z. J., Liu, K. W., Chen, L. J., et al. (2006) Conservation ecology of endangered species Paphiopedilum armeniacum (Orchidaceae). Acta Ecologica Sinica, 26(9): 2791–2800.

4. Liu, Z. J., Chen, L. J., Zhou, Q. (2010) The Reproduction Strategy of Paphiopedilum armeniacum (Orchidaceae). New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

5. Chen, X. Q., Liu, Z. J., Zhu, G. H., et al. (2009) Orchidaceae. Flora of China 25. In: Wu Z. Y., Raven P. H., Hong D. Y., eds. Flora of China. Beijing: Science Press & St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Garden Press.

6. Liu, Z. J., Chen, L. J. (2009) Cypripedium singchii, a new species of Orchidaceae from China. Journal of Fairylake Botanical Garden, 8(2): 13.

7. Li, J. H., Liu, Z. J., Salazar, G. A., et al. (2011) Molecular phylogeny of Cypripedium (Orchidaceae: Cypripedioideae) inferred from multiple nuclear and chloroplast regions. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 61:308–320.

8. Liu, Z. J., Chen, S. C., Ru, Z. Z. (2007) Vanilla shenzhenica Z. J. Liu & S. C. Chen, the first new species of Orchidaceae found in Shenzhen, south China. Acta Phytotaxonomica Sinica, 45(3):301–303.

9. Liu, Z. J., Chen, S. C., Ru, Z. Z., et al. (2006) The Genus Cymbidium in China. Beijing: Science press.