|Silvery stelis (Stelis argentata)|
Leach orchids (genus Stelis) is a large group of orchids, with perhaps 500 species. The generic name Stelis is the Greek word for 'mistletoe', referring to the epiphytic habit of these species. These mainly epiphytic (rarely lithophytic) plants are widely distributed throughout much of South America, Central America, Mexico, the West Indies and Florida.
Many of the older species were named by Lindley, Ruiz & Pavon and Reichenbach, while many of the recent species were named by Dr. C. Luer. An orchid of the genus Stelis was probably the first American orchid ever to be brought to Europe. An herbarium specimen was depicted in 1591 in Tabernaemontanus' herbal book.
Most species grow long, dense racemes of small to minute flower in diverse shades of white. Other colors are rare. These flowers are photosensitive, only opening in the sunlight. Some close completely at night.
This genus is not common in cultivation.
They are closely related to the massive genus Pleurothallis and Masdevallia. Although vegetatively the species show much variety, the flowers show a basic uniformity and are very similar throughout. Apatostelis Garay, Dialissa Lindl., Humboldtia Ruiz & Pav. and Steliopsis Brieger are generally included into Stelis.
Select species of Stelis include:
- Stelis alata Lindl. – winged stelis
- Stelis argentata Lindl. – silvery stelis
- Stelis aviceps Lindl. – bird head stelis
- Stelis barbata Rolfe – bearded stelis
- Stelis bidentata Schltr – two-toothed stelis
- Stelis ciliaris Lindl. – hairy stelis
- Stelis crescentiicola Schltr – Crescentia living stelis
- Stelis dalstroemii Luer
- Stelis flexuosa – flexuous stelis
- Stelis gemma – gem stelis
- Stelis glomerosa – ball stelis
- Stelis guatemalensis – Guatemalan stelis
- Stelis intermedia Poepp. & Endl. – in-between stelis
- Stelis leinigii – Leinig's stelis
- Stelis megantha – giant anther stelis
- Stelis palmeiraensis – Palmeira stelis
- Stelis pauciflora Lindl.
- Stelis papaquerensis Rchb.f.
- Stelis perpusilliflora – West Indian leach orchid
- Stelis porschiana – Porsch's stelis
- Stelis purpurea – purple stelis
- Stelis pygmaea – pygmy leach orchid
- Stelis triangulisepala – triangular sepal stelis
- Dr. C. Luer - Icones Pleurothallidinarum XXIV: A first century of new species of Stelis of Ecuador. Part 1 (2002); ISBN 1-930723-15-6
- Dr. C. Luer - Icones Pleurothallidinarum XXVI: Pleurothallis subgenus Acianthera and three allied subgenera; A Second Century of New Species of Stelis of Ecuador; Epibator, Ophidion, Zootrophion (2004); ISBN 1-930723-29-6
- Phylogenetic relationships in Pleurothallidinae.