Platythelys sp. El Cope, Panama

by Chuck Nishihira

This elegant species looks superficially like Platythelys maculata with the iridescent spotting much reduced.  That orchid is widespread through Central and Northern South America, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see variation in the markings.  Of course the only way to truly tell is to see the flowers.  In this case there were none.  Combine the dark green colors, the reduced spotting, the small size (the narrow leaves were only and inch and a half long), and the solitary growth habit, I was lucky to see this one at all.  It seemed to favor dark spots on the forest floor.  In these situations the areas did not have a lot of undergrowth, leaving falling leaf litter and the occasional heavy-footed hiker as their main threat.