Ansellia africana 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Liliopsida Asparagales Orchidaceae

Scientific Name: Ansellia africana Lindl.
Common Name(s):
English Leopard Orchid, African Ansellia, Monkey Sugarcane, Mopane Orchid, Tree Orchid

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cd+3cd+4cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2006-08-12
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Crook, V.
Reviewer(s): Rankou, H.
Although no accurate values for the number of individuals or subpopulations are known due to the widespread nature of its distribution, it is it known that entire areas are destroyed during collection of Ansellia africana. Even if several subpopulations are known to exist within protected areas, large numbers of A. africana are under no form of protection and with the constant (or increasing) level of harvesting apparent throughout its range a population size reduction over the last few decades (generation length estimated as approximately 10 years) of over 30% can be inferred. This is based on the actual levels of exploitation and a reduction in mature individuals which are often the focus for collection, with the additional threat of habitat destruction. A future reduction of 30% over the next 30 years is also suspected due to their being no sign of a reduction in harvesting levels nor habitat destruction. This species has been categorized as Vulnerable under criteria A2cd and A3cd.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is found throughout tropical and southern Africa. The extent of occurrence (EOO) for southern Africa alone was calculated at over 5 million km2 and area of occupancy (AOO) at over 2,500 km2, so for its entire range these would be even greater.
Countries occurrence:
Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Côte d'Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Madagascar; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):1806
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Subpopulations in Namibia and South Africa are considered threatened, although numbers are not available. Subopulations are likely to be composed of young individuals as it is the 10-yr-plus individuals which are prized for collection, and unsustainable harvesting of these is likely to have a severe affect on the remaining populations, their structure and reproductive abilities.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species is widespread, often in hot dry mixed deciduous woodlands at medium to low altitudes, in riverine vegetation and mopane or miombo woodlands near rivers, growing on trees and shrubs such as Albizia, Crossopteryx, Dialium, Hyphaene, Adansonia, Colophospermum, Ficus, Brachystegia, Ochna, Parinari, Sclerocarya, Terminalia, Uapaca spp. Also sometimes on rocks in shade and in forest, on sandy soils, 0-2,500 m asl. This is a very variable plant, differing mainly in the size and pattern of the markings of the flowers.
Generation Length (years):10

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is an ornamental, and is therefore heavily collected throughout its range. In South Africa it is used as a love charm, as an antidote for bad dreams and at homesteads to ward off lightning. It is used to treat asthma in Mozambique. Recently extracts are being used in alternative therapies in the USA and Europe where it is said to inspire confidence, grace, vision and dreaming.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is very widely distributed with both a large EOO and AOO, suggesting that purely on range information the species is not threatened. The species, however, has many traditional uses within Africa such as a love charm, an antidote for bad dreams, to ward off lightning and to treat asthma. In addition it is a very desirable orchid for collectors and is harvested both legally and illegally throughout Africa.

It is listed on Appendix II under CITES. The species has been classified as Vulnerable in Namibia, where it has not been collected since 1976, and Near Threatened in South Africa. In the latter, the 10-yr-plus individuals of leopard orchids are prized as the most potent of the species, which poses a serious threat to this species, with the biggest and oldest clusters being harvested, destroying most of the established wild populations outside protected areas like the Kruger National Park.

Excessive collection is also carried out for commercial purposes in Kenya. Here, entire host trees, with the orchids attached, are removed and most plants collected die due to the poor conditions and containers into which they are transferred leading to wholesale destruction in more readily accessible areas. There is also some pressure on Ansellia habitats through logging, clearing for agriculture and overgrazing leading to extensive erosion which leaves large gullies and exposes host roots by up to 1 m.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is very widespread, and many subpopulations are found both within and outside various protected areas throughout Africa. A significant amount of research has been carried out on the various supposed medicinal properties of this species, though surprisingly little research has been carried out in relation to the possibilities of large-scale cultivation so as to reduce the pressures on wild populations. It is listed in CITES Appendix II which aims to restrict uncontrolled trade in the species, however this does not prevent trade within countries and is very difficult to enforce between countries in Africa sharing borders in remote regions.

The species is part of the Millennium Seed Bank collecting programme, and seed has been collected in Kenya and Botswana and banked in Kenya, Botswana and the UK. In addition it has been included in the 20 most "rare and endangered plants" of the Okavango Delta Ramsar Site and therefore a species action plan has also been set out for it. Suggestions include collecting more seed for long-term storage, developing of methodologies for propagation, monitoring of known populations, searching for new populations and mounting a public awareness campaign so as to make people aware that harvesting or trading in the species requires a permit under CITES and that the species is under threat.

Citation: Crook, V. 2013. Ansellia africana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T44392142A44437667. . Downloaded on 22 September 2018.
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