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Pitcairnia orchidifolia a nice, small and easy species worth growing.

Pitcairnia orchidifolia Mez (1921) is an attractive not too large and easy to grow species for bromeliad collectors. It has a nice soft foliage and beautiful flower color, with petals that start out yellow, but become partly to fully red at anthesis (Fig. 1, see also Fig. 4). It seems to grow well under humid and shady conditions in cultivation. Leaves are very densely white lepidote on the lower surface only, contrasting with the glabrous upper side (Fig. 2).

There is another name involved with this species, which is Pitcairnia grafii Rauh (Rauh 1988). Specimens of P. orchidifolia key out to P. platypetala in Smith & Downs (1974)--at least if you take the key to subgenus Pepinia. In the same work, P. orchidifolia is found in Key 2. under subgenus Pitcairnia, and possibly escaped Rauh's attention for that reason. Instead, Rauh compared P. grafii to P. platypetala in his original diagnosis. Distinguishing characters listed by Rauh for P. grafii are also found in specimens of P. orchidifolia so the two species are here treated as conspecific.

Interestingly, Rauh mentions that the ovules of Pitcairnia grafii are not caudate, so it would belong to the subgenus Pepinia as defined in Smith & Downs (1974), which is also the case for P. platypetala. Anyway, Mez mentions that the ovules are short caudate for P. orchidifolia, excluding it from subgenus Pepinia. In all material I have examined the ovules are not caudate, so that species also belongs to the subgenus Pepinia despite its contrary placement in the monograph.

The species grows on or near rocks over steeply inclined talus, between Las Trincheras and El Cambur, Carabobo State, Venezuela, at ca. 100 m elevation, but also between Caracas and the port of La Guaira (Tachira?), see Oliva-Esteve (2000: 387).

As Rauh said, the species has dimorphic leaves, The basal leaves being dark, stiff, spreading, and narrowly triangular with prominent marginal spines. These are soon replaced by soft, wide, green leaves. These green leaves have narrowed bases that still have marginal spines, but these spines are not held stiffly and so do not pose a threat of injury to the unprotected hand. The stiff basal leaves are not always clearly seen in specimens, because they can be hidden beneath and between the larger green leaves at the base of the rosette (Fig. 3) or even be absent. This problem was also mentioned by Bruce Hoist (1997: see page 644). He was not certain if this was because of wrongly identified plants or incomplete collections. The later seems to be the case for specimens I have examined.

The description given by Mez (1931) and followed by Smith & Downs is rather short and incomplete and can be extended with characteristics gathered from living specimens grown in the Botanic Garden as well as from the description given by Rauh.

Therefore, an extended description is given here.

Pitcairnia orcbidifoliaMezFeddes Repert. 17: 114 (1921) emended description

Type: Venezuela: State Carabobo, Between Las Trincheras and El Cambus, road from Valencia to Puerto Cabello. 20-Jun-20. Pittier, H.F. 8931 (holotype: B!, isotypes: G!, GH!, NY, US!).

Pitcairnia grafii Rauh J. Bromeliad Soc. 38: 145, 161-3 (1988) syn. nov. Type: Venezuela: Distrito Capital, Southern Venezuela. Estado Tachira; between El Capacho and San Antonio, about 1000 m.s.m., near a waterfall. 2702-1983. Graf, E. s.n. (BGH!)

Plant flowering 5-6 dm high. Leaves 20 in a dense rosette with the outer recurved and the inner erect then arching, persistent, all alike or at the base of new shoots some reduced and narrow triangular, coarsely serrate leaves present, cuneate at the base but not distinctly petiolate; sheaths short, triangular or broadly ovate, lustrous, adaxially white and abaxially at base and at distal end brownish; blades lanceolate, filiform attenuate, soft and flexible, 17-30(-40) cm long, 2-3.5 cm wide, serrulate at base with black spines 1 mm long, elsewhere entire, sometimes undulate at the margin, abaxially densely covered by large white trichomes that are easily rubbed off, adaxially glabrous except at base and apex, pale green. Peduncle stiffly erect, elongated, exceeding the leaves, 3 mm in diameter, finely floccose or puberulent to glabrescent, at least partly visible; Peduncle bracts erect, at least the lower ones exceeding the internodes or recurving, lanceolate, attenuate, floccose or glabrescent. Inflorescence laxly racemose, few-30-flowered, finely subpilose-lepidote; rachis nearly straight, terete, reddish to brown at the base. Floral bracts narrowly triangular-lanceolate to ovate in the upper ones, densely appressed to slightly lepidote toward apex, the lower ones slightly exceeding the pedicels, the upper about equaling them or much shorter, the median 5-12 mm long; Flowers divergent to spreading, cinnabar-red; pedicels slender, 10-15(-20) mm long, red. Sepals triangular-lanceolate, attenuate-acute or obscurely apiculate, 20-26.5 X 5-6.5 mm, fleshy except the margins, all alike, strongly convex, ecarinate, even free, glabrous or with a few short hairs; Petals lanceolate (widest near the middle), 50-65 X 12.5 mm, with cuneate base, 4 mm wide at base, bearing a large fleshy bifid and erodate dentate scale above the base (half adnate to the petal base), obtuse, red but apex yellow at least in bud, forming a hood above the anthers; stamens included; filaments slender but fleshy, subterete at distal end, complanate toward the base, tinged red; anthers 8.5 mm, linear, basifixed with two narrow lobes at base, apiculate, yellow; pollen orange-yellow; Pistil exceeding the stamens and just exceeding the petals with the stigma; ovary about half to more than 3/4 superior, inferior part obconic, 4 mm, rugose, red, superior part attenuate, merging into the style, cream colored; style slender, orange-yellow distally; stigma dilated, conduplicate-spiral, orange-yellow; ovules not caudate (short-caudate Mez!).

Literature cited

Holst, B.K. (1997) Bromeliaceae. In: Berry, P.E., Holst, B.K. & Yatskievych (ed.). Flora of Venezuelan Guayana, vol.3: 548-676.

Oliva-Esteve, E (2000) Bromeliads. Armitano Editores C. A., Caracas Venezuela, 464 pp.

Rauh, W (1988) Pitcairnia grafii, a New, Atractive Plant from Venezuela. J. Bromeliad Soc. 38(4): 161-163 (also front cover photo).

Mez, C. (1921) Additamenta monographica 1920--Originaldiagnosen. Repertorium specierum novarum regni vegetabilis 17:113-114.

Smith, L.B. & Downs, R.J. (1974) Pitcairnioideae (Bromeliaceae). In: Flora Neotropica. Monograph. 14(1). Hafner Press, New York, pp. 1-660.

Eric J. Gouda (1)

(1.) University Utrecht Botanic Garden, e-mail:

Caption: Figure 1. Pitcairnia orchidifolia flowering, showing the yellow petal apices of the immature flowers that have turned red, or nearly so, in the open flowers. Photo by Eric Couda.

Caption: Figure 2. Leaves blades folded around each other, to show the contrast of the densely lepidote (white) lower surface and glabrous upper surface. Photo by Eric Couda.

Caption: Figure 3. A few reduced basal leaves can be found at the base of the rosette between the larger green leaves from further up. Photo by Eric Couda.

Caption: Figure 4. Detail of the raceme, showing that the petals are still a little bit yellowish at the apex when open and the exserted pistils sticking out just beyond the petal tips. Photo by Eric Couda.
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Title Annotation:SCIENCE
Author:Gouda, Eric J.
Publication:Journal of the Bromeliad Society
Geographic Code:3VENE
Date:Oct 1, 2018
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Next Article:Guzmania bicolorL.B.Sm.vs. Guzmania gracilior (Andre) Mez.

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