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Plant Diversity and Resources

Acta Phytotaxonomica Sinica

Volume 24 Issue 4, Pages 317C322.

Published Online: 18 Aug. 1986

Cypripedium subtropicum, a New Species Related to Selenipedilum

Chen Sing-Chi, Lang Kai-Yong

(Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica, Beijing)

Orchidaceae,Cypripedioideae,Sect.Subtropica,Cypripedium subtropicum,Selenipedilum,Cypripedium

Cypripedium subtropicum S.  C. Chen et K. Y. Lang is a phytogeography-
cally significant new species with its habit, inflorescence and column very similar to
those of Selenipedilum of tropical America.  It is found in M┷dog of southeastern Xi-
zang, China.  Its slender leafy stem bears at the summit a many-flowered raceme, am-
ounting to 1.5 m in height. Although its ovary is unilocular!this is the reason why
we place it in Cypripedium, the column characters resemble those of Selenipedilum. For
example, the staminode is rather small and its long stalk is very similar in texture and
color to the filament of the fertile stamens. Obviously, it is a primitive new species re-
lated to Selenipedilum based on the similarities mentioned above.
      In the subfamily Cypripedioideae, as generally recognized, Selenipedilum is  the
most primitive genus, from which or whose allies Cypripedium is derived.  Of phyto-
geographical significance is the fact that Selenipedilum occurs in Central America and
northern South America, while a cypripedium akin to it is discontinuously distributed
in subtropical Asia.  This suggests that Selenipedilum or Selenipedilum-like  form be
once continually distributed in North America and eastern Asia when the climate there
was warmer, as it is in the subtropics today.  The floristic relationship between Central
America and subtropical Asia appears to be closer than expected, as shown by the dis-
tribution patterns of Tropidia, Erythrodes, etc.  Based on the occurrence of all six sec-
tions and particularly the most primitive form in eastern Asia, Cypripedium seems to
be of Asian, rather than Central American, origin.  Selenipedilum possesses some very
primitive characters, such as trilocular ovary, vanilla-scented fruit, seed with sclerotic
testa, simple column and more or less suffrutescent habit.  The latter is considered by
Dahlgren & Clifford (1982) to be one of ancestral characters of monocotyledons, which
is now very rare not only in Orchidaceae but also in all monocotyledons.  It is indeed
necessary to make further investigations on Selenipedilum and also the new species pub-
lished here, as well as a detailed comparison between them.

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