Lepanthes of Ecuador Identification Guide


What this book is about....

( Table of Contents follows below.)

        The orchid genus Lepanthes is one of the largest plant genera in the world, and one of the least known. Most botanists don't even try to identify them because they seem so difficult. I believe this difficulty is largely an illusion, a consequence of the bewildering number of species in the genus. In this online book I try to facilitate identification by breaking up the enormous number of Ecuadorian Lepanthes species into more or less natural groups that are easy to recognize. I provide a simple, visual, nontechnical online key to these groups. If the user answers the questions in the key, the right group of drawings for a specimen in question will automatically download.

      The drawings are mostly taken from Dr. C. A. Luer's groundbreaking monographs, Icones Pleurothallidinarum XI: Systematics of Lepanthes subgenus Brachycladium and Pleurothallis subgenus Aenigma, subgenus Elongatia, subgenus Kraenzlinella and Icones Pleurothallidinarum XIV: Systematics of Draconanthes, Lepanthes subgenus Marsipanthes and subgenus Lepanthes of Ecuador, published in 1994 and 1996 respectively by the Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis. They are used here with the kind permission of Dr. Luer and the Missouri Botanical Garden Press, which holds their copyright. Species discovered more recently are taken from the numerous addendums published by Dr. Luer in his Icones Pleurothallidinarum series, now including number XXXIII. About a dozen species that I have discovered very recently are not yet in any Icones, and these I have drawn myself. All photos are mine unless stated otherwise.

      The drawings (and photos when available) will appear on the screen in a new browser window as two identical independently scrolled long documents side by side. The idea is to scroll down one of them until finding something similar to the species in question. Then, leaving that document alone, scroll down the other document until finding another possible match. With two possible matches displayed side by side, it will be easy to decide which of them best fits the specimen. Leave that one displayed and continue scrolling the other document until finding another possible match. Continue the process until the two best matches are displayed side by side on the screen, and make the final identification by choosing the best of these two. If there is a question about whether the right group has been selected, start over in a different group. Since each group opens in its own browser window, both choices can be examined at the same time.

     The alternate text for each drawing will contain some comments relevant to identification. For example, species that are notoriously variable will be noted as such, and these should be given a lot of leeway when deciding whether a specimen matches the drawing. You can read this text in most browsers just by resting the cursor over the drawing (keep the cursor moving while you read, or else the text will disappear after 2 seconds). Also, each drawing is marked as either east slope, west slope, or both. There are very few species that occupy both slopes in the Andes, so this is a considerable help in narrowing the choices, when the origin of the specimen is known.

     I do not duplicate information in Dr. Luer's previously mentioned monographs. Those monographs include specimen citations, detailed descriptions, range maps, etc. The monographs can be obtained from Missouri Botanical Garden Press.

To view a chapter, click on the Contents item below. It will be some time before I get all this on line, however. The task of scanning and processing 320 drawings and hundreds of photos is so big that I will probably not get it done before mid 2006.



     Table of Contents

Note: These chapters are under construction and are not yet on line.

1. Basic Lepanthes anatomy:

    An illustrated guide to Lepanthes anatomy. Here the most important features for identification are discussed.

2. An illustrated key to the groups of Lepanthes:

    By clicking on the simple alternatives presented in this visual key, the right group of Lepanthes species drawings will automatically download into a new browser window that will appear on the screen.. By comparing the drawings with the specimen in question, identification should be easy. Unless, of course, the specimen is a new, undescribed species!! The chapter below contains these same groups, for users who prefer to browse through the groups rather than work through the key..

3.The natural groups of Lepanthes:

     The more or less natural groups of Lepanthes are listed, with their member species. Clicking on a group name brings up the drawings of the species in that group. Learn the groups this way. Species with question marks are ones that may or may not belong to the group.

4. Species concepts in Lepanthes:

     How should we decide if two forms are really different species or just variations on a single species? Here I discuss this question from a theoretical point of view and a practical point of view. The bottom line is that we must often make educated guesses, because we don't have enough specimens to assess variability or sympatry. Nevertheless ongoing fieldwork is slowly reducing our uncertainty about these issues.



Lepanthes of Ecuador Identification Guide