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Bonnet orchids
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Subtribe: Pleurothallidinae
Genus: Pleurothallis
R.Br., 1813
More than 1200, see text
  • Acronia C.Presl
  • Centranthera Scheidw.
  • Rhynchopera Klotzsch in J.H.F.Link, J.F.Klotzsch & C.F.Otto
  • Talpinaria H.Karst.
  • Pleurobotryum Barb.Rodr.
  • Colombiana Ospina
  • Andreettae Luer
  • Masdevalliantha (Luer) Szlach. & Marg.
  • Mirandopsis Szlach. & Marg.
  • Zosterophyllanthos Szlach. & Marg.
  • Ancipitia (Luer) Luer
  • Antilla (Luer) Luer
  • Apoda-prorepentia (Luer) Luer
  • Areldia Luer
  • Atopoglossum Luer
  • Cucumeria Luer
  • Lindleyalis Luer
  • Madisonia Luer
  • Mixis Luer
  • Proctoria Luer
  • Rubellia (Luer) Luer
  • Xenosia Luer
  • Orbis Luer
  • Vestigium Luer, illeg.
  • Gerardo Luer
  • Tridelta Luer
  • Tigivesta Luer
  • Sansonia Chiron

Pleurothallis, abbreviated Pths in horticultural trade, is a genus of orchids commonly named bonnet orchids. The genus name is derived from the Greek word 'pleurothallos', meaning 'riblike branches'. This refers to the rib-like stems of many species.

This was a huge genus, which used to contain more than 1,200 species - the second largest in the Orchidaceae after Bulbophyllum. In 2004, it decreased by more than half when many species were moved into new genera.[2]


Pleurothallis is a completely New World group, widespread across much of Mexico, Central America, South America and the West Indies.[1] Flora of North America[3] lists one species in Florida (P. gelina) but this has now been transferred to a different genus, Stelis.[4] The center of diversity of the genus is in the high Andes, especially in the chain of cloud forests in Colombia. Pleurothallis grows in dry or wet, tropical or temperate climates.


As a group they show a huge range in vegetative form, terrestrial or epiphytic, and can be found as tall cane-like plants a metre or so high, clumped or trailing, pendent or climbing, erect or creeping, tufted and tiny, delicate moss-like species that can grow on the thinnest of twigs. But they have one common denominator: they all have two pollinia.

They have reduced their pseudobulbs and instead, some species have thick succulent leaves.

Their flowers are among the most diverse and unusual, although often very small, and specialize in using tiny insects such as gnats or Chalcid wasps for pollination.


To bring some order in this extremely diverse genus, 29 subgenera and 25 sections had been created. Much of this work has been done by Dr. C. Luer of MOBOT. A new analysis, based on DNA testing, has confirmed on the whole the classification of the subtribe Pleurothallidinae, with however Pleurothallis as the main difference. This should not surprise anyone, since this somewhat artificial genus has been the dumping ground for species that did not fit into any other genus. New genetic insight has broken up this huge genus and made it more consistent with the principles of monophyletic genera and evolutionary relationships.

Several times before, a splitting up has been attempted, but there were always too many intermediate forms. In 2004 the new genera Acianthera, Ancipitia, Antilla, Apoda-prorepentia, Areldia, Atopoglossum, Brenesia, Crocodeilanthe were created, incorporating a large number of former Pleurothallis species (Monogr. Syst. Bot. Missouri Bot. Gard. 95: 255. 2004 [Feb 2004]). The subgenera Pleurothallis and Specklinia are becoming separate genera, and the subgenus Acuminatae might become the proposed genus Anathallis.

Other allied genera include: Dracula, Masdevallia, Restrepia and Stelis.[5]


This is a long list, with about 1240 species. See List of Pleurothallis species.

A few have common names :


  • Luer, Carlyle; 1986 - Icones Pleurothallidinarum III: Systematics of Pleurothallis (Orchidaceae); Missouri Botanical Garden Press.
  • Pridgeon, A. & M. Chase (2001). "A phylogenetic reclassification of Pleurothallidinae (Orchidaceae)". Lindleyana. 16: 235–271.

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