Black Orchid

Scientific Name
Acrolophia ustulata (Bolus) Schltr. & Bolus
Higher Classification
Acrolophia parvula Schltr., Cymbidium ustulatum Bolus, Eulophia ustulata (Bolus) Bolus
Common Names
Black Orchid (e)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Vulnerable D1+2
Assessment Date
J.H. Vlok & D. Raimondo
This species appears to be highly sensitive to fire intensity and has been lost from a number of known sites due to incorrect fire intensity. It is known from five locations, that all have small subpopulations. The total population is estimated to be 1000 mature individuals. Although not currently declining it remains potentially threatened by a deleterious fire regime and harvesting for horticultural purposes. It is therefore listed as Vulnerable under criterion D.
South African endemic
Provincial distribution
Western Cape
It is found from the Cape Peninsula to Robinson Pass.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
South Outeniqua Sandstone Fynbos, Overberg Sandstone Fynbos
Plants grow in arid fynbos on rocky acidic sandstone derived soil.
This species only flowers in the first two years after fires. In many areas it is known through historical records, it is now very rarely recorded. These subpopulations may have been lost due to inappropriate fire management, particularly fire exclusion over long periods of time. One subpopulation close to a road has been removed by plant collectors.

Subpopulations are small, those that have been counted consist of less than 50 plants, and the population size is estimated to be less than 1000 mature individuals. Some subpopulations, such as those on the Cape Peninsula and Robinson Pass cannot be relocated, and may have died out. The reasons for the loss of these subpopulations are not known, but may be related to fire frequency or intensity. As this species flowers only in the first two years after fire, it may be easily overlooked. Subpopulations possibly require very specific post-fire conditions to flower.

Population trend
This species is conserved in the Outeniqua Reserve in George and in Fernkloof and Vogelgat Nature Reserves in Hermanus.
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Acrolophia ustulata (Bolus) Schltr. & BolusVU D1+2Raimondo et al. (2009)
Acrolophia ustulata (Bolus) Schltr. & BolusLower Risk - Least Concern Victor (2002)
Acrolophia ustulata (Bolus) Schltr. & BolusVulnerable Hilton-Taylor (1996)
Acrolophia ustulata (Bolus) Schltr. & BolusExtinct Hall et al. (1980)

Anthony, N.C. and Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. 1982. New species and new combinations in African Pteridophyta and Orchidaceae. Contributions from the Bolus Herbarium 10:143-164.

Goldblatt, P. and Manning, J.C. 2000. Cape Plants: A conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.

Hall, A.V. 1989. Acrolophia ustulata. Flowering Plants of Africa 50(2):t. 1994.

Hall, A.V., De Winter, M., De Winter, B. and Van Oosterhout, S.A.M. 1980. Threatened plants of southern Africa. South African National Scienctific Programmes Report 45. CSIR, Pretoria.

Hilton-Taylor, C. 1996. Red data list of southern African plants. Strelitzia 4. South African National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

Kurze, O. and Kurze, H. 1990. Acrolophia ustulata: the "Black orchid". South African Orchid Journal 21(2):39-40.

Liltved, W.R. and Johnson, S.D. Unpublished. The Cape Orchids - Wild orchids of the Cape Floral Kingdom.

Linder, H.P. and Kurzweil, H. 1999. Orchids of southern Africa. A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Schelpe, E.A.C.L.E. 1972. A review of the genus Acrolophia Pfitzer. South African Orchid Journal 3(2):6-7.

Victor, J.E. 2002. South Africa. In: J.S. Golding (ed), Southern African plant Red Data Lists. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report 14 (pp. 93-120), SABONET, Pretoria.

Vlok, J. and Schutte-Vlok, A.L. 2010. Plants of the Klein Karoo. Umdaus Press, Hatfield.

Vlok, J.H. & Raimondo, D. 2006. Acrolophia ustulata (Bolus) Schltr. & Bolus. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version . Accessed on 2024/07/18

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Distribution map

© J.H. Vlok/A.L. Schutte-Vlok

© J.H. Vlok/A.L. Schutte-Vlok

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