The genus Lepanthes and another orchids from Guatemala

Moises Behar, Guatemalan, is physician-pediatrics expert in bad-nutrition and public healthy.
Passionate orchidist but having small place for his orchids, he became specialized in micro-orchids and macro-photography.
He is author of the book "Guatemala and its Orchids", between others.

ON: Could you give us an idea about your country, climate, geographical conditions, size?
MB: Guatemala is a small country (108, 889 km2). Located in Central America, south of Mexico, and with coasts in both, the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. Very mountainous and with many volcanoes, with altitudes up to 4,000 meters. Above see level. Because its geographical location in the subtropical zone and its topography it has a great diversity of climates and ecosystems. Very warm in the low lands and cold, sometimes with temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius in the high mountains. The majority of the area of the country is still covered with forests and of great biodiversity, particularly in the cloud and rain forests in the north. Recently is suffering of deforestation because the rapid population increase.

ON: How many species of orchids grow in Guatemala?
MB:About 800 species of orchids have been described in the country, many of great beauty (photos bellow) and some are endemic.

ON: In what kind of habitat, they grow?
MB: The majority of species are found in the cloud forests of intermediate altitude, but they can be found even in a small semidesertic area, epiphytic in cactuses and spine bushes.

ON: In what genus are you most interested?
MB: I am interested in the orchid miniatures, abundant but very little known and appreciated because its small size. They are however of incredible diversity an beauty when magnified. I have study in particular the Genus Lepanthes. Of the Sub-tribe Pleurothallidinae.

ON: Concerning this genus object of your lecture in Dijon, how many species does it have?
MB: Lepanthes is a large genus with about 1,000 species.

ON: Which is the geographical distribution of this genus?
MB: Lepanthes are found in tropical America, from the South of Mexico to the North of Brazil and Peru. Including the Caribean Isles.

ON: How many species occur in Guatemala?
MB: In Guatemala there are about 40 species.

ON: Which are the characteristics of the habitat?
MB: They grow in humid forests, in trunks or branches of trees with moses and other Pleurothallidinae. The majority of species ere between 1,500 and 2,500 m. of altitude, but some can be found at see level and above 3,000 m.

ON: Which is the peculiar characteristics of the genus?
MB: The plants are small, epiphytic, without pseudobulbs. With one leaf in each ramicaul. They are distinguished by the presence of characteristic sheaths (lepantiform sheaths) on the stems. And the “fish-bone” appearance of the old inflorescences. The more significant difference is however the structure of the flowers. They are small, with a great diversity in form and colors. Very attractive. The petals are wider than longer, bilobed. The labelum, difficult to recognize, it is trilobed. The two lateral lobes surround the column, and appear in a front view as “blades” on the sides of the column. The third, median, lobe, situated under the base of the column, is very small, almost microscopic, sculptured, and is adhered“apendix”. Apparently is an attraction to the pollinators.

ON: What could you tell us in order to help the cultivation at home?
MB: To cultivate Lepanthes they have to be kept, attached to slabs of tree fern or sawn in pots with a loose medium, in a very humid environment, above 80%, but with ventilation and enough light.

ON: Thank you very much, Dr. Moises Behar.

Cattleya aurantiaca

Cattleya skinneri

Cypripedium irapeanum

Lemboglossum uro-skinneri

Lepanthes hondurensis

Elleanthus cynarocephalus

Houletia tigrina

Lycaste skinneri

Lycaste skinneri

Rhyncholaelia digbyana

Rossioglossum grande

Lepanthes arachnion

Maxillaria tenuifolia

Photos by Moises Behar

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