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Vol. 10(6), pp. 6-7The McAllen International Orchid Society JournalJune 2009

Bonatea speciosa (L.f.) Willd., Sp. Pl. 4: 43 (1805).

R J Ferry

Fig. 1. B. speciosa (L.f.) Willd. (1805). Photo: J.Asher, Jr., Slide #12, 28Feb81. Carousel II, Labeled "Bromley, 4.3 N.S."

Archiving the material of the late Dr. James Asher, Jr. has been a slow process for several reasons, not accelerated by the shifting of books and equipment from the house to the library/laboratory! Thus far, most of the color transparencies of the Asher material has concentrated on member of the genus Paphiopedilum, but a couple of slides surfaced recently. They were unlabeled, and undated other than the slide developer's printed dates. Worse, the species was relatively unfamiliar to your editor/archivist, although it was obvious the color transparencies were of a terrestrial orchid, not native to North America (Fig. 1).

Fig. 2. Frontal aspect, flower, B. speciosa. Slide #16, by J. Asher, Jr. dated 28Feb81, Asher Archives, Carousel II.

Fig. 3. Posterior aspect, flower, B. speciosa. Slide #17, by J. Asher, Jr. dated 28Feb81, Asher Archives, Carousel II.

The search began with Delforge (2005), but this species wasn't to be found in Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East. The next try was to search literature on India, but (Gamble, 1894) was no help. Looking toward South Africa (Bolus, 1888), and Hopp (1957) likewise drew blanks. Nor was Reichenbach f. (1858 & 1893) any help! Continuing the search, Hooker (1849) was tried, and finally, not only was there a narrative, but also a full-page hand-colored plate that was unmistakably the species shown in Asher's transparencies! (Fig. 2) (Fig. 3) It's one known from S. Mozambique to S. Cape Province. This species is also referenced and figured as B. speciosa var. speciosa by Stewart et al (1982). They state it as:

"a terrestrial from sandy soils in coastal scrub, on forest margins and sometimes in savannah; recorded from near sea level to 1200 m in the S.W, S. and E. Cape, Transkei, Natal, and Transvaal" (p. 99).

Bolus had described a Bonatea boltinii, but this species is relegated to being only a synonym of B. speciosa by Stewart et al. However, it's listed as an accepted name in the Kew data base as

Bonatea boltonii (Harv.) Bolus, J. Linn. Soc., Bot. 19: 340 (1882).

So who's correct? Your editor's more inclined to side with the Kew data base, and it may be that Stewart et al simply missed recognizing B. boltonii as a valid species from the material they studied. At any rate, the full-page color figure by Stewart et al agrees with the beautiful partly-hand-colored plate XCV in Hooker's 1849 work, and both agree with the colored slide material from the Asher archives, so one small group of the Asher colored slides are identified!

As to Bonatea speciosa itself, it's a fairly large plant, common in the moister summer rainfall areas of South Africa, and pollinated by hawk moths (Russell, 2003). Stewart et al note members of the genus grow to 120 cm (ca. 47 inches) tall, so given a mild climate, it may do well as a garden member outside greenhouse walls, possibly in the Houston and Victoria areas of Texas.


Bolus, H. 1888. Orchids of the Cape Peninsula. London: West. Newman and Company. 200pp. Plus 36 hand-colored plates.

Delforge, P. 2005. Orchids of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. 640pp.

Gamble, J. S. 1894. Orchidaceae in Flora of Presidency of Madras, Vol. III. Ulmaceae to Gramineae, Family CXLVIII. Orchidaceae. Dehra Dun, India: Bishen Sungh Mahendra Pal Singh. (1399 to 1478).

Hooker, J. D. 1849. A Century of Orchidaceous Plants. London: Reeve, Benham, and Reeve, King William Street, Strand. 78pp plus 100 hand-colored plates.

Hopp, W. 1957. Blutzenzauber Der Orchideen. Berlin: Safari-Verlag. 254pp.

Reichenbach, H. G. 1858. Xenia Orchidacea. Vol. I. Leipzig: F. A. Brokhaus. 232pp. Plus Tafelen 101 to 200.

_______. 1893. Xenia Orchidacea. Vol. II. Leipzig: F. A. Brokhaus. 246pp. Plus Tafelen 201 to 300.

Russell, G. 2003. African Hawk Moths and African Orchids. Orchids South Africa. 34 59-65.

Stewart, J., and H. P. Linder, E. A. Schelpe,, and A. V. Hall. 1982. Wild Orchids of Southern Africa. Braamfontein Centre, Lorissen Street, Johannesburg: McMillan South Africa Publishers (Pty) Ltd. 307pp.

Copyright © 2009 R J Ferry