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Laelia longipes (lucasiana)
Laelia longipes is another case of misnaming that has been happening quite a bit in the Parviflorae (rupiculous laelias). As is the norm for this series, I am not going into deep detail on
the case but only give an overview of the problem. It can be summarized like this: Laelia longipes
was described by Reichenbach and a few decades later Rolfe described L. lucasiana.
Later, Rolfe concluded that his Laelia
lucasiana was actually the same as
L. longipes and so it was. Decades later, Hoehne described Laelia ostermeyeri, and this is understandable as he never had access to the types in European Herbaria. Now,
the problem is that most taxonomists don't have a chance to study a given species in the natural habitat and, by
studying pressed specimens without knowing the variation of a population, tend to split species much more than
reality shows. To make a long story short, it was somehow concluded that Laelia longipes
and L. lucasiana were separate species again, with L. ostermeyeri a synonym of the latter. Of course by now the reader can see that I agree with Rolfe that
the two species are the same (what the heck, he described Laelia lucasiana
and should have known exactly what it was, let's give a great taxonomist some credit, instead of finding these
small size differences that are producing different species everywhere...). OOPS, I got a bit carried away... and
this was supposed to be a brief description. Anyway, this problem of taxonomists not having field experience is
real, and only will get worse in the future when nature is more and more modified (or destroyed, you might prefer).
Distribution of Laelia longipes
is fairly wide east of Belo Horizonte, whenever mountains exceed 1300 meters (over 4000 ft.) elevation. The distribution
center is in the Serra do Caraça. which is the most varied distribution range for the rupiculous laelias
(with 7 species), but it goes down to Ouro-Preto. The plants are usually found on exposed conditions as seen below,
and they can produce 2-4 or more flowers on a very short (1") to fairly long (5") inflorescence. Also,
species in cultivation usually produce longer flower spikes than in nature, due mostly to lower light conditions,
and this destroys one of the features used to separate species in the group, especially because many were described
from cultivated material - a mess... There is not much variation in color of the segments, except for the intensity
of the lavender, and the lip goes from yellow with a white front half to an intense and uniform yellow-orange.
Distribution Map for Laelia longipes.
The species has a fairly large distribution area, considering the rupiculous laelias, and is very common from Belo
Horizonte west to the Serra do Caraça and south to Ouro Preto.
||On 1, we can see
the typical way plants of Laelia longipes grow, and this is also the way most of the rupiculous Laelia species can be found (that is, most of the small species like this one). Laelia longipes, being one of the small species of rupiculous laelias, evolved to grow under exposed and
rather unfriendly conditions to avoid competition. We have to keep in mind that orchids are usually very slow growers
and would be deprived of light if other plants could overgrow them. The solution is to grow on very exposed places,
in this case together with just a bit of soil and mosses to allow some protection to their rhizomes and root systems.
The upper parts of the pseudobulbs and the leaves get thus plenty of light and air circulation.
On 2, we see a very high quality individual of Laelia longipes.
The flowers are very flat and color is very strong and uniform. On 3, we see the
species together with Laelia fournieri, supposed in the past to be the alba form of
L. longipes. Even a quick look can tell that these two species are completely