Specklinia cactantha

Family : Orchidaceae

Text © Pietro Puccio


English translation by Mario Beltramini


Specklinia cactantha, Orchidaceae

Cespitose epiphyte native to the humid forests of Colombia and Panama, Specklinia cactantha is among the smallest mini orchids, being not more than 1,5 cm tall © Giuseppe Mazza

The species is native to Colombia and Panama where it grows on the trees of the humid forests between 600 and 1650 m of altitude.

The genus is dedicated to the German engraver Veit Rudolph Specklin (-1550), author of the plates of the treatise of botany “De historia stirpium commentarii insignes” by Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566); the specific name is the combination of the Greek substantives “κάκτος” (kaktos), local name reported by Theophrastus (IV century B.C.) referred to an edible spiny plant “that grows only in Sicily, and not in Greece” (thistle?), and “ἄνθος” (anthos) = flower, with reference to the tiny pinky hair similar to spines present on various parts of the inflorescence.

The Specklinia cactantha (Luer) Pridgeon & M.W.Chase (2001) is a cespitose epiphyte species with creeping rhizome and unifoliate thin stems, 2-4 mm long, enclosed by two tubular sheaths. Oblong-elliptic erect leaves with slightly tridentate obtuse apex, 0,7-1 cm long and about 0,3 cm broad, coriaceous, of dark green to bluish green colour.

Specklinia cactantha, Orchidaceae

The hairy flowers, as stated by the scientific name, are carried by a filiform peduncle and open in succession © Giuseppe Mazza

Fasciculate flowers, at the apex of a filiforrm peduncle provided of tiny rigid and upright hair, 1,3-2,2 cm long, that open one by one in succession; pedicel and ovary about 0,3 cm long, also shaggy.

Translucent sepals of white colour at times suffused pink, shaggy at the margins and on the back. Ovate dorsal sepal with long acuminate apex, about 10 mm long and 3 mm broad, oblong lateral sepals with long acuminate apex, united at the base per about 1/3 of their length, about 10 mm long and broad, together, 3-4 mm.

Cuneate petals with retuse apex, about 2,5 mm long and 1,5 mm broad, of greenish colour suffused pink at the centre, linguiform labellum, slightly dilated in the first half with raised margins, fleshy, of dark purple red colour, about 3 mm long and 1,5 mm broad, and cylindric column, about 2 mm long, of pale green colour.

It reproduces by seed, in vitro, but usually recourse is done to the division of the tufts.

Mini orchid among the smallest, not exceeding the 1,5 cm, apart the flowers that rise on the leaves of about 1 cm and are relatively big compared to the plant. Cultivable in intermediate greenhouse as well as warm in semi-shady position with high ambient humidity, 70-85 %, and constant ventilation; ideal for terraria and mini terraria. Usually it is mounted on small portions of branch, of bark or rafts of various material with sphagnum at the base to maintain the humidity. The watering must be frequent and regular, not having a precise resting time, slightly more spaced in winter, but without ever leaving the substratum to dry up completely, utilizing rainwater, by reverse osmosis or de-mineralized.

The species is inscribed in the appendix II of the CITES (species whose trade is internationally ruled).

Synonyms: Pleurothallis cactantha Luer (1976); Sylphia cactantha (Luer) Luer (2006).


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