Patricia Harding

Encyclia group taxonomy

The group of plants covered in this talk is within the subtribe Laeliinae. They belong to a group of species that at one time used to be classified as Epidendrum and latter as Encyclia. Currently this old sense of Encyclia has been divided into other genera. This talk covers the physical characteristics of some of the proposed genera, with illustrations and lots of photographs of species to emphasize each one's similarities and differences.
Epidendrum are reed stem plants with little or no pseudobulb, with a column that is fused to the lip in its entire length, forming a tube, and their fruits are round.
Encyclia has heteroblastic round pseudobulbs (enlarged at only one internode), their leaves are stiff, there is no sheath in evidence on the inflorescence, their fruits are oval or circular in cross section, and most notably the lip is free of the column - not fused like Epidendrum neither with teeth at apex of column surrounding the anther.
Many species that were originally placed into Encyclia, and yet Encyclia; in its original sense, have several traits which made the "fit" uncomfortable.
In 1998, Higgins separated a group of species from Encyclia, placing them into Prosthechea. He defined Prosthechea as having pseudobulbs that arc slightly flattened, homoblastic (enlarged over some nodes), with leaves that are not stiff but flexible. They have an inflorescence that emerges with a spathe from the apex of the pseudobulb. Their columns are partially fused basally to about mid column length with the lip of the flower, and the column is flattened with teeth at its apex. They have seed pods that are triangular or winged.
Withner and Harding took the species of Prosthechea sensu Higgins and divided them into more clearly defined genera.
Anacheilium species, from tropical and subtropical America, have non-resupinate flowers and column with teeth that are equal in size.
Pollardia includes species that are from drier climates of Mexico and Central America with one species found in South America. The small resupinate flowers are colorful and fairly large for the size of plant. The column has teeth at its apex that are equal in size.
Hormidium species, from tropical and subtropical America, have a column midtooth that is beak like. These are small plants with foliage that resembles beads on a strand.
Panarica, mostly from Central America, have flowers with three lobed lips, with a median lobe large and sharply pointed. The column has large lateral teeth and longer fimbriate median tooth.
The species that did not fit in other genus remained in Prostechea, which is defined as having a large isthmus in the lip attachment before the connection of the lateral lobes.
This group of species seems in fact to be distributed in three other genera, since the flowers show three different patterns. Hence it follows that a study about these species is necessary.
Guy Chiron has also been studying this group and he has reached the same conclusions than Withner and Harding. He published then in 2003, and based his studies in Morphology. According to these authors:

  • Prosthechea, subgenus Prosthechea, is composed of P. glauca and P. squamata (Prosthechea sensu Withner & Harding).
  • Prosthechea,  subgenus   Osmophytum,   has   the  unlobed Anacheilium  species (Anacheilium sensu Withner & Harding).
  • Prosthechea, subgenus Equiloba,  has the three lobed    Anacheilium species {Anacheilium sensu Withner & Harding).
  • Prosthechea, subgenus Hormidium, include grammatoglossa in the same grouping of species as Hormidium sensu Withner and Harding.
Chiron and Castro also coin a new genus, Pseudoencyclia, which combines some of the species of Pollardia, Panarica and some of those listed in Prosthechea. Unfortunately Pseudoencyclia was published by Chiron, in November 2003, making the correct name for Pollardia Withner and Harding, based on name priority. Chiron uses Epidendrum michuacanum as the tvpe species for this genus, which has many characteristics that are not found in other species within Pseudoencyclia/Pollardia. It may be with time E. michuacanum and a few others are segregated out from this group and the name Pollardia would become valid once again.
Many of these species are ones that several people already have in their collections. They are plants that arc relatively easy to grow, bloom readily, and are disease and pest resistant. The fact that most of these species have blooms that last a relatively long time and are often fragrant make them appealing to enthusiasts. My goal in giving this study was to create a compilation that helps to put names on plants, because it is hoped that growers will feel compelled to collect and grow some of the rarer ones of this group.