Although extensively cultivated globally, Laelia anceps is thought to be extinct in the wild in Mexico. The species’ natural range included Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. Whilst living for several months near Xalapa, Vera Cruz state, Mexico, I became obsessed with painting these Laelias and a subspecies. I had evolved this style of painting to record as much of the ecosystem of an endangered species as possible. Because often little or nothing is known about connections and inter-dependencies between different species, I sometimes travel to wherever a species was last seen in the wild. I can then paint it in its chosen habitat and include why it is endangered.
Thirty years ago, L.anceps subsp dawsonii f chilapensis could be found growing in this gorge near the Texolo waterfall, but according to local field naturalists, the last specimens were taken by collectors ostensibly working on behalf of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Although extensively cultivated globally, Laelia anceps is thought to be extinct in the wild in Mexico. This orchid’s natural range includes Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. L. anceps is known as tzicxochitl in the Nahuatl language and guichila in Zapotec.
The pollinator is often the most difficult element to track down reliably. Extensive research usually involves trips to paint from entomology collections in Natural History Museums in various parts of the world.The other elements were found with invaluable scientific and other help from the Instituto Écológia, Xalapa and from many visits to the gorge at Texolo. Final elements were found and named from the collections of various scientific institutions in other parts of the world including the Natural History Museum, London.
I painted these orchids from plants growing in an enthusiast’s garden an hour’s bus ride away from my lodgings .Although the vast majority of this work was created elsewhere and with great joy, the pleasure of creating the orchid aspect of the painting was marred by my distress over the owner’s collection of wild birds trapped in tiny cages. I contacted a local animal charity who explained that even if the birds were to be released following any appeal by me, they would probably die as a result of being far from their correct habitat and that more would be collected to replace them resulting in further cruelty and unnecessary suffering. It seems to me that people who claim to love birds yet remove their right to liberty are revealing their own imprisoned spirit. Whilst refusing to deal honestly with their own pain, as powerful humans, they unfortunately have the power, at the moment, to force other life forms to suffer in their stead. © Frances Livingstone 2018