By Jim Cootes and Ronny Boos
It seems that the majority of orchid lovers like to look at big flowers. This makes sense as these large flowers are very easy to observe. But we need to take the time to look at the miniature flowers too, because these blooms are just as lovely as their larger relatives. In this article, we want to introduce you to some of the smaller flowered species. None of the flowers mentioned here is bigger than 6 mm across the widest point of the flower.
The genus Appendicula was established by Dr. Carl Blume, in 1825, in his Bijdragen from plants collected in Java. The generic name is from the Latin for a little appendix, and refers to the small calli found on the labellum of some of the species. The type species for the genus is Appendicula alba Bl., a species which is found in Java in the Indonesian archipelago.
Appendicula is one of the larger orchid genera to be found, with about 200 species. The genus is found throughout much of south-east Asia, to the islands of the south-west Pacific Ocean, and northern Australia, at a wide range of elevations, but the majority of the species are usually found at elevation of above 1,000 meters.
Plants can grow upright to pendulous; the stems are usually thin and from 1.5 to 5 mm in diameter, depending on the species, and can be from 15 cm long to almost a meter in length. In some species, the stems are flattened. Leaves are opposite and range in shape from narrowly lanceolate to broadly ovate. The inflorescences usually appear from the leaf axil, and can be pendulous, or they can be clustered, and in some species the inflorescences are terminal. The flowers can be produced singly or there can be several open at the same time. The blooms are small and in some species quite attractive. There is a floral bract, at the back of each bloom, of varying sizes, between the different species.
Appendicula clemensiae is endemic to the Philippines and is one of the larger growing plants in the genus, with the stems reaching up to a meter in length. The striped floral segments of this species are most attractive.
Appendicula leytensis, as the specific epithet suggests, was first found on the Visayan island of Leyte. It has subsequently been found on the island of Samar. This species is endemic to the Philippines. We have observed some specimens of this species where the foliage takes of a bright purple shade, when growing in the right amount of light. The colored foliage makes this plant most attractive.
Appendicula luzonensis is endemic to the Philippines and has been recorded from the provinces of Albay, Quezon, and Rizal on Luzon; and the Tawi-Tawi islands in the Sulu archipelago. One would assume that it is also found on the islands in between, unless the Tawi-Tawi island records are a misidentification. This plant is more upright growing, and the inflorescence can reach lengths of 12 cm and also branch.
Appendicula malindangensis is endemic to the Philippines, and with its pink to bluish flowers it is one of the most exceptionally colored members of this genus. It is only known from northern Mindanao. This species is from high elevations and will not grow in the heat of the lowlands.
Appendicula torta is also widely distributed and has been recorded from Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and has been recently found in the southern Philippines. The very large white, or in some cases pink, to purplish, floral bracts distinguish this species from any other Appendicula species. The bi-lobed mid lobe is another interesting feature of this species. This species also branches along its stems.