John and Gerry's    Orchids of Britain and Europe
Home Back to Himantoglossum species Links

Himantoglossum metlesicsianum


H. metlesicsianum
was first described from Tenerife in 1982 and named after Herr H Metlesics who is a contemporary Austrian botanist.

This species is entirely confined to the Atlantic island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. These islands, although not  rich  in  orchid varieties have fostered the isolated development  of  plants which although originally  with  a  wider distribution,  have subsequently been recognized as  species in their own right.  There are two orchids in particular which have evolved in this way  -  firstly the Canary Islands Orchid,  O.canariensis  which can  be  found  on  several of the islands and  secondly  the  Tenerife Giant orchid, H. metlesicsianum which exists on Tenerife only.

Tenerife is a volcanic island and a harsh environment for even the toughest of plants and yet this species chooses to grow on the lower flanks of the volcano amongst the lava channels and rubble. It is at its most common in the vicinity of  Santiago del Teide  and  chooses sites where the lava has eroded  to  a  point where a thin layer of mildly acidic soil has formed in sufficient quantity to support vegetation.  It is a point of note that  H. metlesicsianum   seems invariably  to  grow  in  gulleys at  a  lower level than the surrounding igneous rock.  This presumably not only provides a habitat where more soil has accumulated but also one that offers some protection from harsh weather conditions.

H. metlesicsianum is a very rare plant living in a curious environment and as such is impossible to confuse with any other orchid. It bears a strong morphological resemblance to H. robertianum and indeed shares a similar chromosome count.