Polystachya modesta 

This taxon is accepted by WCS higher taxonomy

General Description

Epiphytic, rarely lithophytic, herb.Pseudobulbs clustered, 0.6–10 × 0.3–1.5 cm, conical, purple or yellow, 3–4-leaved.Leaves 4–12.5 × 1–2.2 cm, elliptic or lanceolate, dark green, often edged with purple.Inflorescence (floral axis) 5–18 cm tall, simple or with a few short, pubescent branches, fairly densely several- to many-flowered.Peduncle covered with flattened sheaths.Flowers glabrous, fleshy, variously described as lemon-yellow, dull red and yellow, green and yellow, and bright purple, often not opening properly but apparently self-fertile.Pedicel and ovary 3–4 mm long; bracts 2–3 mm long, ovate, acuminate.Dorsal sepal 2.5–3.2 × 1.5–2.3 mm, ovate, acute; lateral sepals 3.5–5 × 2.5–3 mm, obliquely triangular, acute; mentum conical, rounded, 2.5–3 mm high.Petals 2–3 × 0.6–1 mm, oblanceolate.Lip 3.25–4.75 × 2.3–3.5 mm, clawed, 3-lobed at about the middle.Mid-lobe 1–2 × 1.6–2.3 mm, ± orbicular, recurved, bullate, emarginate; side lobes erect, c. 1 mm long, acute; disk with a cushion of whitish hairs. Column c. 1.5 mm long.

Flowers whitish or greenish yellow, sepals often pink or purplish.


habit: herb

null: epiphyte

null: lithophyte


Riverine and coastal forest, high rainfall woodland and mist zone woodland, epiphytic on trees and occasionally on Xerophyta spp., also on rocks


Zimbabwe Murehwa Distr., Shavanhohwe (Shawanoe), fl. ii.1950, R. James in GHS 228762 (SRGH).

Mozambique Sofala Prov., coastal forest near Pungwe Flats, fl. 13.iii.1964, Morze 102 (K).

Malawi lower valley of R. Shire, fl. & fr. v.1861, Meller s.n. (K).

N. Nig.: Zaria Cole 13! Mongu F.R., Plateau Prov. (July) King 31! Sanga River F.R., Zaria Prov. (Sept.) Keay FHI 22443!

Zambia Kabwe Distr., Mulungushi R., fl. 15.i.1961, Morze 24 (K).

Zimbabwe Chivi Distr., Nyoni Hill, overlooking Tokwe R., fl. 4.ii.1973, Grosvenor 808 (K; SRGH).

Zambia Zambezi Distr., Chavuma, fl. 13.iii.1959, Holmes O 135 (K; SRGH).

Zambia Kawambwa Distr., Ntumbachushi (Timnatushi) Falls, 1260 m, fl. 19.iv.1957, Richards 9347 (K).

Ghana: Cox 52!

Zimbabwe Mutare Distr., Burma Valley, Nyamakari R., 760 m, fl. 22.ii.1962, Chase 7639A (K; SRGH).

S. Nig.: Eleyele, Ibadan (Aug.) Keay FHI 22429!

Malawi Nyika National Park, Thazima–Chelinda road, in woodland, 1800 m, fl. 6.iv.1984, la Croix 619 (K).

Zambia Kitwe, fl. 23.ii.1963, Fanshawe 7721 (K; NDO).


in Flora 50: 114 (1867); F.T.A. 7: 116.

in Flora 50: 114 (1867). —Rolfe in F.T.A. 7: 116 (1897). —Kraenzlin in Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. Beih. 39: 56 (1926). —Summerhayes in Bot. Mus. Leafl. [Harv. Univ.] 10: 282 (1942); in F.W.T.A., ed. 2, 3: 224 (1968). —Morris, Epiphyt. Orch. Malawi: 60 (1970). —Grosvenor in Excelsa 6: 85 (1976). —Williamson, Orch. S. Centr. Africa: 120, fig. 63/10 (1977). —Ball, South. African Epiphyt. Orch.: 194 (1978). —Cribb in F.T.E.A., Orchidaceae: 363 (1984). —la Croix et al., Orch. Malawi: 211 (1991). —Geerinck in Fl. Afr. Centr., Orchidaceae pt. 2: 446 (1992). —Stewart, Orch. Kenya: 69 (1996). Type from Angola.

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
Found in
  • Africa East Tropical Africa Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Northeast Tropical Africa Ethiopia
  • South Tropical Africa Angola
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Southern Africa KwaZulu-Natal
  • West Tropical Africa Benin
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Ivory Coast
  • Liberia
  • Nigeria
  • Togo
  • West-Central Tropical Africa Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Gabon
  • Rwanda
  • Zaire


  • 1 Mytnik-Ejsmont, J. (2011). A monograph of the subtribe Polystachyinae Schltr. (Orchidaceae): 1-400. Fundacja Rozwoju Uniwersytetu Gdanskiego.
  • 2 Lejoly, J. & Geerinck, D. (2010). Flore de la Tshopo (RD Congo): Familles des Malvaceae, Orchidaceae, Sterculiaceae, Tiliaceae. Taxonomania. Revue de Taxonomie et de Nomenclature Botaniques 29: 1-41.
  • 3 Szlachetko, D.L. (2008). Orchidaceae of Ivory Coast. Ruizia 20: 1-396.
  • 4 Szlachetko, D. & Kowalkoska, A. (2007). Contributions to the orchid flora of Guinea, West Africa. Polish Botanical Studies 25: 1-259.
  • 5 Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (eds.) (2006). Flore Analytique du Bénin: 1-1034. Backhuys Publishers.
  • 6 Sosef, M.S.M. & al. (2006). Check-list des plantes vasculaires du Gabon. Scripta Botanica Belgica 35: 1-438.
  • 7 Govaerts, R. (2003). World Checklist of Monocotyledons Database in ACCESS: 1-71827. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • 8 Harris, D.J. (2002). The vascular plants of the Dzanga-Sangha Reserve, Central African Republic: 1-274. National Botanic Garden (Belgium), Meise.
  • 9 Brunel, J.F., Hiepo, P. & Scholz, H. (eds.) (1984). Flore Analytique du Togo Phanérogames: 1-751. GTZ, Eschborn.

 Information From

Flora Zambesiaca
Flora Zambesiaca. Published on the Internet; http://apps.kew.org/efloras/
Flora of West Tropical Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa. Published on the Internet; http://apps.kew.org/efloras/
WCS higher taxonomy
  • C All Rights Reserved
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
WCSP 2014. 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/ Retrieved 2011 onwards
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