Luisia species

When one first sees the plant of a Luisia  species, particularly if unfamiliar with the multitude of growth habits of various orchid genera, it would be most reasonable to assume that you are looking at a bunch of dead, or dried-up, twigs, and even more so if the plant has no flowers. The first author (JC) still recalls seeing his first plants of Luisia cordatilabia in the mountains of Nueva Vizcaya. It took a very long time before he was convinced that these “twigs” were really an orchid.In fact, his guides eventually found a plant bearing seed capsules that settled the confusion for him, once and for all.

That very fact, may indeed save this genus from over collecting.

The genus Luisia was established by Charles Gaudichaud-Beaupré (1789 – 1854), in 1826, in Voyage sur l’Uranie et la Physicienne – Botanique. There is some confusion as to whom was honoured when the genus was named.

  • Luisia cordatilabia (Ronny Boos)

There are about thirty-nine species in the genus and they have been recorded from Korea, Japan, southern China, the northern states of India, Sri Lanka, to Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, throughout Indonesia, Borneo, the Philippines, Sulawesi, New Guinea, New Caledonia, northern Australia, to the Pacific islands of Fiji. The Philippines has at least five members of the genus. The type species for the genus is Luisia tristis, which is far better known as Luisia teretifolia.

Luisia cordatilabia is endemic (found nowhere else on earth) to the Philippines and has been recorded from the mountains of the provinces of Benguet, the Mountain Province, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quezon province. It grows as an epiphyte, usually in very brightly lit situations at elevations of over 1,200 meters. The small flowers are most attractive and the heart-shaped labellum appears as if it is covered in very deep-red velvet.

Luisia curtisii is a widely distributed species which has been recorded from Vietnam, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, and Borneo. In the Philippines, it has recently been found growing on the island of Palawan. The long, forward-pointing petals are one of the distinguishing features of this delightful species, aside from the relatively large flowers within this genus.

Luisia tristis is the type species for the genus, and it has had a most interesting taxonomic life. It was first named in 1786, by Johan George Adam Forster (1754 – 1794) as Epidendrum triste. Then in 1814, it was transferred to the genus Cymbidium, and one can only wonder what Roxburgh’s concept of the genus Cymbidium really was. It was not until 1890, when Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817 – 1911) transferred this species to the genus Luisia, in his Flora of British India, that some stability occurred. In 1826, Charles Gaudichaud-Beaupré established his genus Luisia and nominated Luisia teretifolia (also named by him) as the type species, apparently unaware of the publication of Epidendrum triste.

Luisia tristis is a very widely distributed species, and as is usual with such species it has a good number of synonyms. It has been recorded from throughout Asia. In the Philippines, it has been recorded from the provinces of Bataan, Bontoc, Bulacan, Cavite, Ifugao, Laguna, Rizal, and Sorsogon on Luzon; the islands of Camiguin, Leyte, Mindoro, Negros, Samar, and Palawan; and the provinces of Agusan, Lanao and Surigao on Mindanao. It grows at elevations of up to 500 meters.

From what we have observed, this is by far the most common species among those mentioned here; displaying a range of color variations and spotting, particularly on the labellum.


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