Bijdr. (1825) 400
Sympodial terrestrial plants with very short rhizomes. Pseudobulbs consisting of more than one internode, often partly subterranean, 1- to 11-leaved. Leaves sheathing at the base, glabrous, plicate, articulate, convolute, thin-textured. Inflorescence arising laterally from the pseudobulb, a few- to many-flowered raceme, with a few to several flowers open at the same time. Flowers medium-sized, resupinate, white, yellow, or usually various shades of purple to mauve or pink. Sepals free. Petals free, as long as the sepals but usually distinctly broader. Lip without spur, not mobile, distinctly 3-lobed, with a more or less distinctly bilobed callus at the base of the mid-lobe. Column slender, curved, column-foot absent. Pollinia 8, solid, in two pairs of 4, those within a pair somewhat unequal; caudicles present, partly sticky, stipe absent, viscidium absent.
Sri Lanka, tropical continental Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Australia, east to Samoa and Niue. About 30 species; in New Guinea about 13 species.
Terrestrial in open vegetation, especially along forest margins, stream banks and road sides. Mainly in the lowlands, but also in subalpine grassland.
A well-known genus of frequently seen terrestrial orchids, easily recognised by the unspurred lip having a pair of callosities at the base of the midlobe. Some species are quite common along roads through forested areas, and as such are among the few orchids that benefit from human disturbance. The taxonomy of the genus in New Guinea is extremely confused. Although we have benefitted considerably from Howcroft's unpublished MSc thesis on the genus we must admit that the delimitation of the taxa in the alliance of Spathoglottis plicata and Spathoglottis papuana still poses many problems. In his manucript Howcroft divided some species, especially S. plicata, into a number of subspecies, which we have not taken up here.