Brachycorythis conica subsp. transvaalensis is one of about seven plants of the Brachycorythis genus found in southern Africa. There are about 70 of them worldwide, predominantly in tropical Africa and Asia.
The Brachycorythis genus comprises terrestrial orchids, perennial herbs with oblong tuberous roots. Brachy means short in Greek, koros is helmet, referring to the shape of the dorsal sepal at the top of the flower. These plants live for about 20 years.
The spaced leaves spiral up the stems in an overlapping manner, decreasing in size to the lowest flowers. The leaves are pale green, sheathing the stem below, while above they taper to pointed tips. Leaf surfaces undulate variably, their margins are entire, sometimes wavy.
The species distribution is in the Highveld, parts of Gauteng, southern Limpopo and western Mpumalanga, the centre of the old Transvaal grassland. This part of the world has been transformed comprehensively by a large human population, to an extent that it would today be unrecognisable to anyone who had seen it two centuries ago (barring those with capability in geographical forensics).
The plant’s habitat, the little that is left of it, is open and wooded grassland in sandy, gravelly soils overlying dolomite, sometimes quartzite. This subspecies is considered to be critically endangered in its habitat early in the twenty first century, the plant population expected to decrease by 80% over the next 60 years.
There are, however, plans afoot involving WOSA, a sub-committee of the Orchid Society of SA and the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden to deal with countermeasures regarding this negative expectation.
The other two subspecies of B. conica occur in tropical Africa beyond the South African border (www.redlist.sanbi.org).