Species of Dracontia Luer were long known as members of the huge and variable genus Pleurothallis R.Br., and were later placed in Stelis Sw., where they seemed even less at home. They were segregated by Luer in 2004, and even though that generic concept is not widely accepted, species of Dracontia form a natural, well distinguished group, which is easy to manage.
Species of the genus are distributed form Mexico to Panama, with one species in the Greater Antilles, and with the highest diversity in Costa Rica. Before 2012, only 17 species of Dracontia were known, however several undescribed species have been discovered recently in Costa Rica, two of which have just been published and three more which are already in press.
They are usually epiphytic herbs in humid or seasonally dry forests, and most species are found growing at elevations of 800-1800 m. Some Dracontia can have quite large plants (reaching 0.5 m tall) and flowers (up to 3 cm tall); they have successive inflorescences, some species being able to produce dozens of flowers during several months. All species of the genus have some kind of purple-tone streaking or slecking, suggesting that that color might attract its pollinators.
The name Dracontia means dragon, and refers to the dragon-like mouth that some flowers resemble.The most common species in the genus is D. (Pleurothallis) tuerckheimii, a species that is well known by most orchid growers, characterized by its deep purple fleshy flowers.
Read the articles about Dracontia and the recently discovered novelties.
Dracontia, the little-known dragon orchids.
ORCHIDS (WEST PALM BEACH)] 80(9): 560-566. 2011
Illustrations and Studies in Neotropical Orchidaceae. 3. On the identity of Dracontia pachyglossa and D. ramonensis; with a new species, D. lueriana (Pleurothallidinae).
ANNALEN DES NATURHISTORISCHEN MUSEUMS IN WIEN 113B: 119-132.2012
Karremans, A.P. & C.M. Smith
A note on genus Dracontia (Orchidaceae: Pleurothallidinae), with a new species.
HARVARD PAPERS IN BOTANY 17(1): 13. 2012