Pterygodium Sw.
  • Sw., Kongl. Vetensk. Acad. Nya Handl. 21: 217 (1800)

This is a synonym of Coryciinae Benth.

General Description

Slender or robust terrestrial herbs, glabrous in all above-ground parts, with testicular tubers. Stem unbranched, up to 1.5 m tall, with leaf sheaths below the foliage leaves. Foliage leaves few to many, rarely one, cauline, clustered near the stern base if many, lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, acute. Inflorescence terminal, lax to dense, unbranched, few-many flowered, rarely with a single flower; bracts ovate to elliptic, basal sheathing. Flowers resupinate or not, generally with a comparatively shallow hood, pale green to yellow, rarely white, sometimes with red or purple tinges. Dorsal sepal adnate to the petals, lanceolate, occasionally subapically saccate. Lateral sepals spreading, rarely reflexed, lanceolate. Petals subrotund or variously lanceolate, entire or crenulate. Labellum diverse in shape, linear, deltate, three or two-lobed, rarely marginally fringed, always with an elongate and unlobed but sometimes funnel-shaped and hollow appendage. Column without an undifferentiated stalk, thecae parallel but far apart on each side of the labellum appendage, thecae horizontal or rarely erect; pollinia two, sectile; stigma in the form of two convex pads situated on the rostellum close to the median line or on the lateral arms, ontogenetically derived from the median carpel; rostellum an elongate strap of tissue between the two anther thecae.

Terrestrial herbs with undivided sessile tubers. Stems unbranched. Leaves arranged along the entire length of the stem but radical leaves usually larger and more densely arranged. Inflorescence terminal, usually densely flowered but occasionally lax. Bracts ovate to lanceolate. Flowers re- supinate, yellow to deep orange or grey or white. Sepals free from each other, spreading or reflexed. Petals united to the margins of the dorsal sepal to form a hood. Lip united to face of column and adnate to it between the stigmatic lobes and rostellum-arms, narrowed into a claw at the base and expanded into a reflexed entire portion towards apex, generally smaller than the petals, produced above the junction with the column into a large, erect, variously shaped, fleshy appendage; spur absent. Column short, dilated, produced in front into 2 horizontal processes; pollinaria 2, each with sectile pollinium, caudicle and viscidium situated at the apex of the column-processes; stigma situated between the arms of the rostellum, horseshoe-shaped or forming 2 cushion-like tuberculate lobes. Capsule cylindrical or obovate, with prominent ribs.

Odd {i}sepal{/i} superior, more or less concave; lateral sepals free, spreading, ascending or reflexed. {i}Petals{/i} oblique and united to the margins of the dorsal sepal into a more or less flattened hood, not contracted in front, not saccate at the base. {i}Lip{/i} united to the face of the column and adnate to it between the stigmatic lobes and arms of the rostellum, narrowed into a claw below, dilated into a reflexed undivided variously shaped limb above, usually smaller than the petals, produced above the junction with the column into a large erect variously shaped fleshy appendage. {i}Column{/i} short, dilated, produced in front into two horizontal arms, holding at their extremities the glands of the pollinia. {i}Anther-cells{/i} more or less distant; pollinia solitary in each cell; caudicle and gland uppermost. {i}Stigma{/i} situated between the arms of the rostellum, horseshoe-shaped or sometimes divided into two more or less distant cushion-like tuberculate lobes. {i}Capsule{/i} cylindrical or obovate, with prominent ribs.


Species of the genus Pterygodium grow in fynbos in the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa and rnontane grass land in the southern African summer-rainfall area. Although most prefer areas with comparatively high rainfall, P.hallii (Schelpe) H. Kurzweil & H . P. Linder, P schelpei, and P. volucris are known from the fringes of the Karoo in the western and northern Cape Provinces of South Africa. Most species are known from low to medium elevations, but P platypetalum Lindl. is known only from higher mountain slopes. Unlike other southern African terrestrial orchids, flowering of Pterygodium species is not strongly stimulated by fire. However, the flowering of P. catholicum Sw. is clearly enhanced by previous  burning of its habitat. In this species, a large number of nonflowering plants can usually be found around flowering individuals in old veld (i.e. veld that has not been burned recently). The species flower just after the rains, in spring in the western Cape and in summer farther north. Most Pterygodium species grow either singly and scattered or are found in populations of 20-50 plants. Pterygodium catholicum and P. alatum (Thunb.) Sw. usually form fairly dense colonies and are believed to multiply vegetatively. Pterygodium species are commonly found on the richer, heavier soils derived from shale, whereas Disa species are commonly seen on the more oligotrophic, sandstone-derived soils.


Pterygodium comprises 17 species in South Africa and Lesotho and one species (P. ukingense) endemic to southern Tanzania. In southern Africa, the greatest diversity is found in the western Cape Province, and several of the western Cape species range into the northern and eastern Cape Province. Another centre of diversity is found in the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal where four species are found.


No notes.


in Vet. Acad. Handl. Stockholm, ser. 2, 21: 217, t. 3 (1800); Rolfe in Dyer, Fl. Cap. 5(3): 271 (1913)

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
Found in
  • Africa East Tropical Africa Tanzania
  • Southern Africa Cape Provinces
  • Free State
  • KwaZulu-Natal
  • Lesotho
  • Northern Provinces
  • Swaziland


  • 1 Govaerts, R. (2003). World Checklist of Monocotyledons Database in ACCESS: 1-71827. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • 2 Pridgeon, A.M., Cribb, P.J., Chase, M.C. & Rasmussen, F.N. (2001). Orchidoideae (Part 1). Genera Orchidacearum 2: 1-416. Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford.
  • 3 V. S. Summerhayes (1968) Orchidaceae. Flora of Tropical East Africa 0 (0)
  • 4 (By R. A. Rolfe.) (1913) Orchideæ. Flora Capensis 5 (3)
  • 5 Pridgeon, A.M., Cribb, P., Chase, M.W. & Rasmussen, F.N. Genera orchidacearum. Vol. 2, Orchidoideae. (Oxford University Press: 2003).
  • 6 Swartz, Oor Olavo ( Original publication of Pterygodium. 21, (1800).

 Information From

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa. Published on the Internet;
Flora Capensis
Flora Capensis. Published on the Internet;
WCS higher taxonomy
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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; Retrieved 2011 onwards
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