Jump to content
Forum for Epiphytic Myrmecophytes

Myrmecophila tibicinis

Recommended Posts

Myrmecophila tibicinis (Batem.) Rolfe (Robert Allen Rolfe) published in Orchid Review 25, (1917) citing Schomburgkia tibicinis as the basionym, which was incorrect.


The correct basionym is Epidendrum tibicinis Batem. (James Bateman) published in Edwards's Botanical Register 24, pl. 53, (1838).


Carnevali (2009) also states that: "This beautiful species was described by James Bateman in his classic book 'The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala' published as pl.30, in 1843 as Schomburgkia tibicinis, from plants collected by George Ure Skinner in Guatemala. This is correct,

(see http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/15471#page/105/mode/1up with a description and further notes in English.)

However, Carnevali does not note that James Bateman had already published this species as an Epidendrum in (1838). Nonetheless, the same type specimen (Skinner’s) was used for both descriptions.

Synonyms, Schomburgkia tibicinis var grandiflora Lindl. 1845, Cattleya tibicinis Beer 1854, Bletia tibicinis (Batem) Rchb.f 1862, Schomburgkia grandiflora (Lindl.) Sander 1901, Myrmecophila exaltata (Kraenzlin 1926, (But see Jay's note below) Laelia tibicinis (Batem. ex Lindl.) L. O. Williams 1941, Schomburgkia brysiana var intermedia H. G. Jones 1972, Schomburgkia intermedia (H. G. Jones) Withner 1993.

Etymology, tibicinis means flute player, the name used because the hollow pseudobulbs were utilised as musical instruments by indigenes. Hence the common names of Flute Player's Orchid or Flute Player’s Schomburgkia. Others are Cow Horn Orchid (English); Caño (Spanish); Dac kisin, Hom Ikim and Ho Hom Bak (Mayan).

Ecology/Ecophysiology. Tests on plants then accepted as Schomburgkia tibicinis showed that ants, frequent residents in the hollow pseudobulbs, fed their home plants via nutrient rich debris discarded therein. However, the interaction of resident ants with farmed mealy-bugs on host plants has also shown that the reproductive fitness of Myrmecophila species is reduced (Rico-Gray and Thien, 1989.) Therefore, there are costs as well as benefits from this mutualism.

Plants identified as M. tibicinis exhibited a Carbon13 isotope ratio of -12.9%; a figure representing a strong CAM pathway. (Silvera et al. 2010.)

Description, Carnevali (2007) considers that most records of M. tibicinis, including those specimens in cultivation and the orchid trade, actually refer to the newer segregate M. christinae (Carnevali and Gómez-Juárez 2001.) Carnevali found M. christinae and M. brysiana to be common in Belize but M. tibicinis to be rare. Hence older studies attributed to M. tibicinis may relate if only in part to M. christinae or other congeners. Carnevali (2009) notes: "The name Myrmecophila tibicinis (Batem.) Rolfe or its synonyms Schomburgkia tibicinis Batem., or Laelia tibicinis (Batem) L. O. Williams has been used for at least four different species of the genus Myrmecophila in southeastern Mexico and Central America. Our studies on the systematics of the group have resolved the species identities". Due to this confusion, I quote a description from the 1843 publication The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala that used Skinner’s type specimen of M. tibicinis, (as Schomburgkia tibicinis, see link above) hence it is accurate. "Stems tapering, hollow, deeply furrowed, from a foot to a foot and a half, (30- 45 cm.) or even two feet (60 cm.) long, bearing three or four broad, oblong, leathery leaves six inches (15 cm.) long. Flower Stem terminal, upright, terete, very long, occasionally reaching the height of ten feet (3 m.) at its extremity producing a spike of about twenty flowers; usually it is simple, but occasionally, as is represented in the figure, slightly branched. Flowers two inches and a half across, opening in succession. Sepals and petals nearly equal, very much curled, upwards of an inch long, dark chesnut brown inside, and dirty purple without. Lip three-lobed, the lateral divisions rounded at their extremities, the middle one much smaller, somewhat of a rhomboideal form, emarginate; the whole of the inside of the lip is white, with the exception of the edges, which are beautifully penciled with crimson, and five elevated yellow ridges, that pass along its centre. Column whitish brown, tipped with an emarginate anther."

Authentic images here.


Habitats, in the southwest of Yucatan Peninsula, a high epiphyte on the banks of little rivers in Campeche State, in the municipalities of Champoton, Palizada and Candelaria. (Carnevali et al. 2009.)

Range, Mexico (Gulf Coast in a strip of rainforest in Veracruz, north Oaxaca & Chiapas States.) Belize, Guatemala, (Petén Department in the north) Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.) (Carnevali et al. 2003 & 2009.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites



It's a wide world out there beyond the Yucatán Peninsula. I am familiar with several of the taxa discussed by Carnevalli, et. al. at both inland and coastal sites of Guatemala, México and Belize. IMO, there are two very distinct species (Myrmecophila exaltata and M. brysiana) occurring in coastal areas of the Caribbean lowlands of this area that hybridize promiscuously, producing a hybrid swarm that is remarkably like M. tibicinis as we traditionally conceived of it. There are also populations from inland forests, mainly in riparian habitats that may or not fall into either M. christinae or M. tibicinis.   I think there needs to be a lot more work on this genus in Mesoamerica as a whole before we conclude exactly where the taxonomic boundaries lie.


I do however disagree vehemently with orchid researchers who do not recognize M. exaltata as a valid species. For what it's worth, I believe that RBG Kew currently recognizes it as a valid species as well (The Plant List 2012). The core populations located near sea level in the lower Polochic valley of Depto. Izabal, Guatemala are quite distinctive with large numbers of showy purple and white flowers with tightly-enclosed columns on extremely long, erect peduncles. These plants are located some ways west of the type locality at Livingston at the mouth of Río Dulce (collected by Ulmcke in 1925; the holotype was apparently lost during the war which always complicates later debates). As you move eastwards along the shores of Lago de Izabal towards the Caribbean, putative intergrades with M. brysiana begin to appear alongside "pure" M. exaltata, showing varying amounts of yellow and orange from that species, as well as starting to have much shorter peduncles with a noticeably lower flower count per inflorescence.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...
  • 4 years later...
  • 2 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Jeff. That drawing of a specimen in FLOWER represents a TYPE of the basionym.  

The following sentence is from my opening post of this thread.  "Carnevali (2009) also states that: "This beautiful species was described by James Bateman in his classic book 'The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala' published as pl.30, in 1843 as Schomburgkia tibicinis, from plants collected by George Ure Skinner in Guatemala. This is correct,"

This URL links to THE holotype of the basionym Schomburgkia tibicinis with a description and further notes in Latin and English. Thus, even if you wish to ignore the expert work of Rolfe and use the basionym, the following flower is correct for tibicinis and Robert's flower is not.

"Petals nearly equal, very much curled, upwards of an inch long, dark chestnut brown inside, and dirty purple without."


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...