Epiphytic herbs with many-noded, stem-like rhizomes resembling those of a monopodial orchid. Roots basal. Perennating organ cylindrical or pseudobulbous, fusiform, homoblastic, many-leaved. Leaves linear-lanceolate, acute to acuminate, obscurely pleated, articulated to a sheathing base. Inflorescence lateral, arising opposite leaves in upper part of stem, racemose, simple; bracts persistent. Flowers with pale yellow sepals and petals and a white labellum veined with pink or rose-purple. Dorsal sepal free, lanceolate, acute, suberect with an upcurved tip; lateral sepals oblique at base, otherwise similar to dorsal sepal. Petals free, elliptic-lanceolate, acute, porrect or spreading, shorter and broader than sepals. Labellum free to base of column, trilobed, spurred at base, callose, lateral lobes free to base of column, midlobe fl at; callus two- or three-ridged; spur conical. Column with a foot; anther cap conical, pollinia two, subglobose; stipe solitary, triangular to oblong; viscidium semi-lunate. Ovary cylindrical, grooved. (PC).
Paralophia comprises only two species, both endemic to Madagascar. (PC).
Ecology of Paralophia was discussed by Hermans and Cribb (2005). Paralophia epiphytica is an epiphyte on Elaeis guineensis Jacq., Raphia farinifera (Gaertn.) Hyl., and probably also Dypsis Noronha ex Mart. palms, climbing among leaf bases on trunks with basal roots deeply embedded in the soft sheath tissue. Paralophia palmicola grows on trunks of the palm Ravenea xerophila Jum. and on Didieriaceae from sea level to 200 m.
It is difficult to determine the most likely native host tree of P. epiphytica because both palms on which it has been found are almost certainly introduced. Raphia farinifera is almost certainly an introduction from tropical Africa because it is always found growing near villages or in plantations in Madagascar (Dransfield and Beentje 1995). Oil palm is also an introduction in this area but may be native elsewhere in Madagascar (Dransfield, personal communication). The orchid grows on the bases of the palm trunks, running through their leaf bases with the leaves and stems of the orchid hanging in a curtain all around the palm trunk. Its natural host cannot be Ravenea xerophila, the palm that supports E. palmicola (H.Perrier) P.J.Cribb, because it is rare (reduced to about 65 mature trees) and grows only in the dry, spiny, Didieriaceae/ Euphorbia forests on laterite and gneiss between 200 and 700 m elevation (Dransfield and Beentje 1995). That is a drier habitat and distant from the type locality of E. epiphytica. John Dransfield (personal communication) suggested that Beccariophoenix madagascariensis Jum. & H.Perrier and Dypsis fibrosa (C.H.Wright) Beentje & J.Dransf., both found in suitable habitats nearby, might be searched for the orchid. The crown of the former may be a suitable habitat for the orchid, but we have examined all trees in the southern population, which is north of the type locality of P. epiphytica, and the orchid was not found there. Dypsis fibrosa is a host of other epiphytic orchids and a widespread species. In the region it can be found in littoral and lowland peat-swamp forests on white sand. It seems the likeliest native host for the orchid. (PC).
There are no known uses of either species of Paralophia, and neither is in general cultivation. (AP).