Orchid (Dracula vampira)

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Dracula vampira flower
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Orchid fact file

Orchid description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassLiliopsida
OrderOrchidales
FamilyOrchidaceae (1)
GenusDracula

This magnificent orchid has large distinctive flowers; the sepals are rounded with the top corner pulled into a thin tail, which may extend up to 11 cm long (2). Although green in colour, the sepals are covered by numerous blackish purple veins and the tails are almost completely black (2). The large sepals dwarf the petals and lip of the flower, which are white in colour and marked with purple and pinkish veins respectively (2). Dracula vampira is a large epiphyte with many stems; the erect leaves are between 15 and 28 cm long (2). The generic name of this species seems very appropriate; 'Dracula' means 'little dragon', alluding to the exotic flower shape; the misty cloud forest where these orchids are found may also evoke images of Count Dracula (5).

Size
Inflorescence length: up to 20 cm (2)
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Orchid biology

As an epiphyte, this orchid does not obtain its nutrients from the soil but from the air around it (7).

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Orchid range

Endemic to Ecuador in South America, Dracula vampira is found only on the slopes of Mount Pichincha (2). It is found between 1,900 and 2,200 metres above sea level (6), where it is fairly locally abundant (2).

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Orchid habitat

These plants grow on the lower sections of trees on the forested mountainside; many plants may accumulate on damp, leaf litter (2).

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Orchid status

Classified as Vulnerable on the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants (3), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (4).

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Orchid threats

The precise threats facing this species are currently unclear.

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Orchid conservation

This orchid is popular in cultivation for its extremely dramatic, large flowers (5).

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Authentication

Authenticated (5/6/03) by Dr Phillip Cribb. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Epiphyte
A plant that uses another plant, typically a tree, for its physical support, but which does not draw nourishment from it.
Sepals
A floral leaf (collectively comprising the calyx of the flower) that forms the protective outer layer of a flower bud. (See http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/ksheets/pdfs/flower.pdf for a fact sheet on flower structure).
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2003) www.redlist.org
  2. Luer, C.A. (1993) Systematics of Dracula. Missouri Botanical Gardens.
  3. Walter, K.S. & Gillett, H.J. [eds] (1998) 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants. Compiled by the World Conservation Monitoring Center. IUCN – The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
  4. CITES (May, 2003) www.cites.org
  5. Hermans, J. & Hermans, C. (1997) An Annotated Checklist of the Genus Dracula. Orchid Digest Corporation.
  6. Jenny, R. (1997) Dracula vampira. Caesiana,8: center page.
  7. Attenborough, D. (1995) The Private Life of Plants. BBC Books, London.
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Image credit

Dracula vampira flower  
Dracula vampira flower

© Phillip J. Cribb / Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Richmond
Surrey
TW9 3AB
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 332 5000
Fax: +44 (0) 208 332 5197
info@kew.org
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk

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