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Laelia rupestris is another case of confusing nomenclature issues for orchid growers. The species has been
known as Laelia rupestris since been described by Lindley in 1842, and remained so
until Garay renamed it as L. crispata in 1973. I am not going to extend myself on the issues of
naming the species here, but a bit more information about my position in this case can be found in last month's
installment of the "species of the month".
Laelia rupestris is the species with the widest distribution in section Parviflorae.
The distribution range is fairly narrow and goes roughly from the south at the Serra do Cipó to the north
at least 200 km. further than Diamantina. There are reports that the species occurs up to Barra da Estiva, in the
State of Bahia, and this is shown on the distribution map. The reports come from serious people, and although I
haven't had a chance to check it until then it is believed to be true.
There is a lot of variation in Laelia rupestris, and this makes it difficult to find the morphologic limits to delimit the species. It
is usually assumed (and this is what can be found in the literature) that Laelia rupestris
produces only a few flowers and there is a related species, called L. tereticaulis,
that produces inflorescences of up to more than 20 flowers. It is, however, very difficult to use properly the
amount of flowers in a description, and the results have been usually at least confusing. Based on my observations
in the wild, there seems to be no physical barriers or isolation whatsoever between the two types. Actually, the
"tereticaulis" type occurs in areas where the plants are usually more protected and thus allowed to grow
more robust. In most other cases, plants of Laelia
rupestris grow under strong light
conditions, usually full sunlight, and this easily explains why weak plants in nature usually grow much stronger
under cultivation. So, my position right now is that there are not enough elements to separate the two species,
but this might change in the future.
Distribution Map for Laelia rupestris.
This is the individual species of the rupiculous laelias with a wider geographic distribution. Laelia rupestris
has Serra do Cipó as southernmost limit and is common to north of Grão-Mogol, near the State of Bahia.
Personal communications from growers extend that range north to near Barra da Estiva, already in the State of Bahia,
and this information is shown on the map.
||On 1 and 2,
we can see the way plants of Laelia rupestris usually can be found on nature. On 1, the plants
are growing on a big crack on the ledge, where there is some soil accumulated. This is the usual situation, as
the plants can have their rhizomes and lower parts of the pseudobulbs covered and thus protected from the rigors
of the environment. The temperatures get very high during the day and so does the sunlight, and covering the vegetative
reproduction parts of the plants ensures that they will survive such conditions. On 2, we see an even more exposed
habitat situation. Besides all the natural rigors of the habitat, plants of Laelia rupestris frequently have to
cope with artificial disasters as for example seasonal fires. In this case, protecting the plants with some soil
is essential for their survival. Sometimes we can see plants completely burned but that survive due to this kind
Although having a very wide distribution, there is not much of a color variation in the species. The flowers go
from a pinkish-lavender as on 3 to a purplish-lavender as on 4. There are
very few plants to be found that are darker than this, but very rarely plants that are extremely dark are found.
It is also very common to find color fading to the base of the segments, as on 3. As an interesting
note, no albinos of Laelia rupestris were ever found.