Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the June 12, 2016 Newsletter with notes from a trip in April to the Lacandon Reserver in Chiapas, MÉXICO

In mid April when I was in the Lacandon community of Lacanja Chansayab in Chiapas's Lacandon Reserve in extreme southeastern Mexico, beside the informal little family campground where I pitched my tent, at the edge of the forest, a viny orchid twined among thick bushes, as shown below:


A shot of the flower clusters appears below:


My first thought was that this was the Vanilla Orchid, the species from whose fruits the vanilla flavor is extracted, occurring in this part of the world. But then I took a closer look at the flowers. A shot of them face-on is shown below:

Fairy Bentspur, CAMPYLOCENTRUM MICRANTHUM, flowers from front

Vanilla Orchid flowers are very irregular in shape -- they're strongly bilaterally symmetrical -- but you can see that, at least from the front, these flowers are almost regular, or radially symmetrical. Looking at the blossoms from the side, however, we see that the back part of each flower bears a strongly curving "spur," where nectar might be stored, seen below:

Fairy Bentspur, CAMPYLOCENTRUM MICRANTHUM, flowers from side showing spurs

This is CAMPYLOCENTRUM MICRANTHUM, sometimes called the Fairy Bentspur, found from southern Mexico and the Caribbean south through Central America to Amazonian Brazil. It needs more rain than the central and northern Yucatan affords, but does turn up in the extreme southern Yucatan Peninsula, where it's the rainiest.

Though Fairy Bentspurs seem to be fairly common in its range, not much information is available about it, other than it likes partially shaded forest. I suspect that my Landandon campground host had hung the orchid where it was, since I couldn't find it in the nearby woods, and other orchids definitely had been planted in trees not far away.