A Rare Jewel
The genus Ansellia was described by John Lindley and named in honor of the English assistant botanist, John Ansell, who discovered a specimen of Ansellia Africana in 1841 on a trip to the former Fernando Po Island off the coast of West Africa. Its common name, leopard orchid, refers to the beautiful spots of this elusive animal.
Widespread in tropical and southern Africa, the leopard orchid is often found in hot, dry climates in deciduous forests, coastal areas, and along rivers in tree canopies. It’s occasionally found on rocky outcrops.
Ansellia plants can carry several hundred flowers on a strong, branched inflorescence. The flowers last for 8-10 weeks and emit a musky, woody, and sometimes spicy fragrance. In cultivation, the plants will flower all year round, especially in a greenhouse.
The genus Ansellia is currently listed as a Red Data List under CITES Appendix II, which controls the international trade in the species. Although the last major assessment of the genus was carried out in 2013, there’s no accurate data on the current natural populations of Ansellia Africana. However, it’s clear that there’s been constant harvesting and trade over the past 20 years and an ongoing decline in natural populations due to vast deforestation and habitat destruction that continues across Africa for logging, land clearing for agricultural purposes, overgrazing, and informal housing development.
– Michael Tibbs, a world-renowned orchid expert, breeder, and grower of several other plants currently used in the commercial pot-plant and cut-flower trade.