Pterygodium is a small genus in the Orchidaceae family mostly found in the southern Africa with one species in Tanzania. These are terrestrial orchids with underground tubers, leaves borne on the stem, and small or medium sized yellow to green flowers sometimes with a purple or maroon flush borne on unbranched spikes. Flowers are generally open and cup-like. They are found in a variety of habitats with some common and some very rare. Flowering occurs in spring or summer with some species fire dependent.
Pterygodium alatum (Thunb.) Sw., syn. Ophrys alata Thunb., is found in scrub, sandy flats, and slopes in a widespread area of South Africa (Clanwilliam to Humansdorp) at an elevation of 30 to 900 m. Growing from 7 to 15 cm high, plants have spreading leaves clustered at the base, often dry at flowering, and few densely clustered pale greenish yellow fragrant flowers with a lip with 2 broad diverging lobes. Plants flowers August to October, mostly after fire. Plants can occur in large numbers, but usually only in seasonally moist soils. Photos from the book Plants of the Klein Karoo courtesy of Jan and Anne Lise Schutte-Vlok.
Pterygodium catholicum (L.) Sw. is a widespread species that occurs from the Bokkeveld Mountains to Port Elizabeth. Growing up to 35 cm, this species has oblong leaves and greenish yellow flowers fading to orange-red in a moderately loose spike with the lip appendage minutely toothed at the tip. It grows in seasonally moist sandy soils and clay vleis in renosterveld in the southwestern and southern Cape and blooms in spring (September to November). Photos taken by Bob Rutemoeller at Bontebok National Park and by Mary Sue Ittner at Tulbagh and Lion's Head. The last photo from Cameron McMaster was taken at Napier and is most likely this species.
Pterygodium hallii (Schelpe) Kurzweil & H.P.Linder is a winter rainfall species that grows to 55 cm with overlapping, lance-shaped stem leaves with acutely pointed tips and pale green flowers in a dense spike with the petals facing down. The central lip appendage is paler green and oval oblong and the uppermost lip darkly and densely purple spotted. It grows in varied soils in karroid and renosterveld shrubland to strandveld from the Western Cape to Kamiesberg in Namaqualand and the southern Richterveld and east to the Karoo. It flowers August to October. Photos taken by Cameron McMaster near Kamieskroon.
Pterygodium hastatum Bolus is a summer rainfall species found in damp grassland, among rocks, occasional on cliffs, 1200 to 2400 m from the Eastern Cape to Mpumalanga. It is a slender species growing to 34 cm, with 2 leaves, the basal leaf larger, and pale green to whitish yellow sometimes scented flowers spotted purple inside. The margins of the petals are tightly wavy, crisped with the tip 3 toothed. Flowering is between January and April. Photos taken by Cameron McMaster at Sentinel Peak, Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal.
Pterygodium leucanthum Bolus is endemic to the Drakensberg Mountains and Lesotho where it grows in damp montane grassland from 1300 to 2400 m. A slender plant to 40 cm, it has creamy green scented flowers in a loose inflorescence January to March. A distinguishing characteristic is an erect lip appendage with 2 dark green lobes curving forward at the tips. Photos taken by Cameron McMaster.
Pterygodium magnum Rchb.f. is a summer rainfall species found in marshy grassland on floodplains at 900 to 1800 m from the Eastern Cape to Mpumalanga. Growing up to 1.5 m with flowers crowded in a large dense spike, it flowers January through May. The petals are greenish yellow spotted or streaked red-purple with a white to pale green or mauve fringed lip mottled purple. Photos taken by Cameron McMaster in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
Pterygodium pentherianum Schltr. is found on clay soils in renosterveld from the Biedouw Valley and western Karoo to the Hex River. Growing to 20 cm, it has greenish white sweetly scented flowers (4 to 8) and elliptic basal leaves. The dorsal tepal is hooded with 2 broad diverging lobes and the lip lowermost. Flowering is September to October. Photos taken by Cameron McMaster in the Biedouw Valley.
Pterygodium schelpei H.P.Linder is found on sheltered sites on damp clay flats and slopes in renosterveld in the Northwest and Southwest Cape and the Karoo (Richtersveld and Western Karoo to Stellenbosch). It grows to 15 cm and flowers September to October. The strongly scented 8 to 15 flowers are greenish white with the lowermost lip mask-shaped and the upper tepals parasol-like.The first four photos taken by Cameron McMaster. The first two were taken near Nieuwoudtville September 2011 and the second two in the Biedouw Valley. The last two photos were taken by Mary Sue Ittner near Nieuwoudtville in the Bokkeveld Plateau September 2006.
Pterygodium volucris (L.f.) Sw. is found in sandy or clay soils among bushes from the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Growing to 50 cm when in flower in the spring (August to October), this species has four soft textured ovate, oblong leaves, often dry at flowering. Flowers are fragrant, lime green, and lax to densely clustered with twisted and cupped petals. Photo from the book Plants of the Klein Karoo courtesy of Jan and Anne Lise Schutte-Vlok.