Ansellia is a monotypic genus of orchid, with only one species, Ansellia africana, commonly known as African Ansellia or Leopard Orchid. It was named after John Ansell, an English assistant botanist. who found the first specimens in 1841 on the Fernando Po Island in West Africa. This genus is abbreviated as Aslla in horticultural trade.
Distribution and habitat
This orchid is native to tropical and South Africa, found alongside coasts and rivers in the canopy of trees, usually at elevations lower than 700 m (occasionally up to 2,200 m).
This is a large, perennial epiphyte
, or at times a terrestrial
plant, growing in sometimes spectacular clumps, attached to the branches of tall trees. The white, needle-like, aerial roots
are characteristic for this orchid. They point upwards, taking the form of a trash basket around the tall, many-noded, fusiform, canelike, yellow pseudobulbs
, catching the decaying leaves and detritus upon which the plant feeds. These pseudobulbs can develop a gigantic size, up to 60 cm long. This robust orchid can grow very large, sometimes with an estimated weight over a tonne. Even eagle owls (Bubo bubo)
have been seen to make their nest in such a clump.
These pseudobulbs carry on their top 6 to 7, narrowly ligulate-lanceolate, acute, plicate, leathery leaves. They give rise to a paniculate inflorescence, up to 85 cm long, with many (10 to 100), delicately scented flowers, 6 cm across.
The three-lobed lip grows into three yellow projections. The tepals are yellow or greenish yellow, lightly or heavily marked with brown spots.
The Royal Horticultural Society International Orchid Register
lists crosses between Ansellia and eight other genera: Anaphorchis (xGraphorchis), Ansidium (xCymbidium), Catasellia (xCatasetum), Cycsellia, (xCychnoches), Cyrtellia (xCyrtopodium), Eulosellia (xEulophia), Galeansellia (xGaleandra), and Promellia (xPromenaea),