(By Noah Elhardt and Forbes Conrad, , 2006

(All pictures by Noah Elhardt and Forbes Conrad)


P. orchidioides and P. heterophylla in habitat


After the dismal lighting at the last P. orchidioides site, we were blessed with not only a break in the drizzle that has been plagueing us for the last few days, but also some sunshine! To add to that, the setting was drop dead gorgeous and the plants pristine!

This location is north of Oaxaca city in the beautiful state of Oaxaca. On a slope at 2200 m. grows one of the most enchanting forests I have ever been in! The canopy consists of a mix of pines, oaks, and madrones (presumably Arbutus glandulosa) with their smooth red trunks. Sunshine sprinkling through this canopy makes an ever dancing dappling of light on the forest floor. Adding to this bespeckled pattern were layers of lichens and legions of Tillandsias clinging to the tree trunks.

Nestled on clay banks on the forest floor are clumps of P. orchidioides, sending forth sprays of purple flowers.


The plants here had noticably fewer "stolons" (more on that later) visible, which is understandable since they appeared to be earlier in their growing season.



Only a few clumps were in flower (most, however, showed buds), compared to the last site which had litterally hundreds of flowers covering small hillsides.


Among the open flowers, there was some variability, with some of the larger plants exhibiting flowers with longer petals. There was some color variability as well, with flowers ranging from light to dark purple. Most flowers were darker than the pictures show.

In our last post on P. orchidioides, we did a rather poor job of describing the way 'stolons' grow from the species.

First, when the plants are forming hybernacula, they form gemmae similar to those of temperate Pinguicula. Then, when the main plants begin to grow the following year, the 'gemmae' also begin to grow. But they don't grow like temperate Pinguicula. Instead, they etiolate from their growing points to form long stems with spase leaves; perhaps these growths are stolons, but they don't seem to follow the classical definition of a stolon. Then, when the end of the etiolated stem is far enough from the parent plant, it stops etiolating, gains roots and forms a new plant is established at its terminus.


Equally exciting at this site were some plants that Fernando seems to have missed altogether on his visit here. Growing mere yards from P. orchidioides was a species that looked strangely out of place among the detritus of the shaded forest floor: P. heterophylla!!

The green plants were growing singly and were sparsely scattered in an area with perhaps a 10 meter radius. Oddly enough, there were only a dozen or two plants here, and we were unable to find any other plants anywhere on the hillside!


Upon closer inspection, however, we came across an apparent paradox: Some of the plants were forming plantlets on their leaf tips!

Also, the plant habit was much more similar to the P. medusina plants we had seen than to our previous experience with P. heterophylla. But this plant couldn't be P. medusina! After all, P. medusina, as we all know, grows in Gypsum soils and is red in colour! It's looking like P. medusina is not a legit species at all, and that color, soil preference, and plantlet formation are just characteristics that vary between different P. heterophylla populations.

Any thoughts on this?


Noah Elhardt and Forbes Conrad