Named after the rib-like canes of some of the larger species (pleura - ‘rib’; thallos – ‘stem’), the Pleurothallis genus currently encompasses approximately 570 species, all native to Mexico, Central and South America, and the West Indies. One of the genera commonly known as ‘bonnet orchids’ for its floral structure, the rounded top sepal arches over its central column like a hood or bonnet.
One of the most spectacular and largest Pleurothallis species, Teague's Pleurothallis (Pleurothallis teaguei) is a warm to cool growing epiphytic orchid native to northwestern Ecuador, where it is found growing on trees between 750-1550 meters in elevation. Its ramicauls – secondary stems – can reach up to 50cm long, each bearing a single huge heart-shaped to ovate leaf up to 60cm long and 16cm wide. The clustered flowers look like are borne directly on the leaf, but actually they arise as single-flowered, successively blooming inflorescences from a reclining spathe at the top of the leaf base. Over 20 flowers may bloom successively from a single spathe.
Unlike many plants that are named after their horticulturist or botanist discoverer, this orchid was named in honour of its collector and co-discoverer, Walter Teague (1925-2013), who was born in Ecuador, moved to California, started his career as a purser in the airline industry. Fueled by a job that required him to travel globally, he developed a talent for nature photography, and a fascination and world-renowned expertise in high elevation cloud forest orchids, discovering over 150 new species of orchids throughout the course of his life. Renowned by the cloud forest orchid community, in addition to this Pleurothallis species and a Masdevallia species, Masdevallia teaguei, a whole Andean cloud forest orchid genus was named in honour of Teague: the miniature-flowered genus Teagueia
Discover this Pleurothallis species for yourself at Cloud Forest. Currently in full bloom, there are flowers at the base of almost every leaf except for the very newest leaves! This large orchid is growing on the left side of the path after stepping off the bridge as you journey from the waterfall to the lift lobbies at the base of the mountain.
Written by: Janelle Jung, Senior Researcher (Research and Horticulture)
A transplanted pake (Hawai'i-born Chinese), she's finding her own Singaporean roots. Every plant has a story, and Janelle helps discover and share these with colleagues and guests, hoping to spark a mutual plant passion! Ask her what plant she named her cat after!