Brownleea Harv. ex Lindl.
  • Harv. ex Lindl., London J. Bot. 1: 16 (1842)

General Description

. Slender terrestrial or occasionally epiphytic herbs with pubescent to woolly tubers, glabrous in all above-ground parts. Stem with brown sheathing leaf above the tuber. Foliage leaves one to few, cauline, ovate to linear. Inflorescence terminal, dense head-like cluster or lax to dense raceme, rarely flowers solitary; bracts shorter to longer than the ovary, acuminate, green, erect. Flower white, pink or mauve, often darker-spotted. Dorsal sepal galeate and spurred, adnate to the petals, acute; spur cylindrical or clavate, horizontal at the base, then gradually or abruptly decurved, tapering or clavate. Lateral sepals obliquely elliptic or oblong, acute. Petals erect, oblanceolate, oblong or pandurate, sometimes with a basal anticous lobe, upper margin flat or crenulate. Labellum a minute, linear organ in front of the column and adpressed to the stigma, fused to the column at the base. Column: anther thecae horizontal with upcurved upper portions; pollinia two, sectile; auricles large; stigma sessile on the front side of the column; rostellum two-lobed with lorate and concave lateral arms, bearing a globular viscidium each, central lobe minute, obsolete, rarely prominent (B. coerulea Harv. ex Lindl.). Capsule ribbed, oblong to cylindrical.

Terrestrial herbs with sessile undivided tubers. Stems unbranched, leafy. Leaves few to several. Inflorescence terminal, 1- to many-flowered, lax or dense. Flowers resupinate, white, rose, lilac or purple. Dorsal sepal hooded, extending into a dorsal conical or narrowly conical spur, the laterals spreading, free or united in the lower part. Petals erect, adherent to the edges of the dorsal sepal, united at their base to the column. Lip very small, entire, often curved upwards and adpressed to the column, ecalcarate. Column short; anther reclinate, horizontal or reflexed, the loculi parallel, canals short; pollinaria 2, each with sectile pollinium, caudicle and viscidium; auricles on each side of rostellum, ± rugulose; stigmas united into a cushion in front on the anther, rostellum erect, ± 2-lobed. Capsules cylindrical or ellipsoid, ribbed.

Terrestrial, rarely epiphytic or epilithic herb with perennating tubers.Tubers more or less testicular, pubescent to woolly, up to 5 cm long.Plants mostly erect, slender, 5–60 cm tall.Scape usually nitid, the base rarely sheathed in old leaf fibres.Basal sheath(s) pale brown, up to 15 cm long, obtuse to acute, often ± mucronate; leaves 1–3(5), scattered on the scape, erect to spreading, the blade up to 22 cm long, linear to ovate, usually nitid, more or less plicate with veins somewhat prominent.Inflorescence capitate or laxly spicate; flowers 1–numerous, c. 5–30 mm in diameter, white to mauve or pale with darker mauve spots; bracts erect, shorter than to much longer than the ovary, acuminate, green.Dorsal sepal, c. 3–13 mm long, lanceolate, acuminate, falcate in side view, the apex often reflexed; a spur produced from dorsal sepal base, horizontal, then straight or down-curved, 0.5–5 cm long.Lateral sepals flat, oblique, narrowly elliptic or rarely oblong, acute.Petals fused by their backs to the dorsal sepal, oblanceolate, oblong or almost pandurate, occasionally with a basal anticous lobe, the upper margin flat or crenulate, the apex acute or rounded. Lip minute, erect from a broad base in front of the stigma, 0.1–2 mm long.Rostellum tall, erect; lateral lobes more or less lorate, concave, each with an apical viscidium; central lobe a small fleshy body at the base of the lateral lobes (except in B. coerulea, where it is finger-like); staminodes as large as or smaller than the lateral lobes.Anther horizontal, the apex usually up-curved; caudicles almost as long as the 2 pollen masses; viscidia 2, globular, separate.Stigma sessile at the base of the rostellum.


Brownleea occurs in the higher rainfall, montane-temperate areas. Brownleea galpinii, B. recurvata Sond., B. mulanjiensis H.P.Linder, B. parviflora, and B. macroceras are found in grasslands, whereas B. coerulea and B. maculata P.J.Cribb grow in forested habitats (the latter species occasionally as an epiphyte). The species flower comparatively late-at the end of summer-long after most other deciduous-terrestrial orchids in the area have flowered.


The seven Brownleea species occur in Africa, distributed mainly in the southern African summer-rainfall area and extending into tropical Africa and Madagascar.


No notes.


in Hook., Lond. Journ. Bot. 1: 16 (1842)

in Lond. J. Bot. 1: 16 (1842).

in Hook., Lond. J. Bot. 1: 16 (1842); F.T.A. 7: 287.

Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
Found in
  • Africa East Tropical Africa Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • South Tropical Africa Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Southern Africa Cape Provinces
  • Free State
  • KwaZulu-Natal
  • Lesotho
  • Northern Provinces
  • Swaziland
  • West-Central Tropical Africa Cameroon
  • Zaire
  • Western Indian Ocean Madagascar


  • 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 Govaerts, R. (1996). World Checklist of Seed Plants 2(1, 2): 1-492. Continental Publishing, Deurne.
  • 4 V. S. Summerhayes (1968) Orchidaceae. Flora of Tropical East Africa 0 (0)
  • 5 Pridgeon, A.M., Cribb, P., Chase, M.W. & Rasmussen, F.N. Genera orchidacearum. Vol. 2, Orchidoideae. (Oxford University Press: 2003).
  • 6 Lindley, J. Original publication of Brownleea. 1, (1842).

 Information From

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa. Published on the Internet;
Flora Zambesiaca
Flora Zambesiaca. Published on the Internet;
Flora of West Tropical Africa
Flora of West Tropical Africa. 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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