A Selection of Cattleya Species- A Bees Eye View 2…The Relatives
All of these species are in the larger Cattleya family (Laelianae) and breed readily with Cattleyas and other members of the group. Most have been historically separated only by the number of pollenia (8 instead of 4) and some have recently been moved into the group (i.e. L. purpurata is now Cattleya purpurata).
Whether your tags read the names that we have all known and grown them by or if your nimble enough to stay up to date with the newest taxonomic changes…one thing is foresure-these are amazing plants that deserve space in your collection.
A Selection of Cattleya Species- A Bees Eye View
The unifoliate large flowered section in Cattleya boasts some of the most elaborate lips (modified petal) in all of orchids. These fragrant bloom are specifically designed to attract the pollinator (typically bees) up the tubular section and into the “business end” (anther cap/stigmatic surface) where the pollen can be taken or deposited.The bee is completely unaware of this activity and actually just came for the food…a small amount of nectar at the base of the column.
Cattleya nobilior var. amaliae ‘Orchid Dynasty’ (Brazil) Lip Detail
If it hasn’t been obvious…its Cattleya season.
Cattleya amethystoglossa ‘H&R’ Supreme x sibling (Brazil)
One of my favorite cattleya species. Its native to Brazil where it grows on palm trees, other large branches, and even rocky out-croppings. This is a first bloom seedling that just bloomed with 9 very waxy flowers on one 75 cm growth. I grow it in bright location with warm-intermediate conditions.
Cattleya percivaliana in Sanders Reichenbachia 1884
Cattleya percivaliana (‘Summit’ FCC/AOS x var. alba ‘Sonjia’) Lip detail
I have always been a fan of Cattleya percivaliana. Sometimes referred to as “The Christmas Cattleya”, if given the right conditions it never fails to fill the air with its musky fragrance for the Holidays. Even the smell is appropriate for the time of year. It’s kind of a mixture between pine oil and old boots…the type of fragrance that hits you right between the eyes. Whenever anyone sees a large pink flower in bloom their first instinct is to give it a big smell. I have observed this many times and the reaction is usually polarized …you love it or you hate it. I once attended a talk on Venezuelan cattleyas by a well known Venezuelan orchid grower. He repeatedly called it “ugly and stinky” while barely even stopping the slide long enough to recognize the distinctive mustard-yellow lip.(He hates it)
I had grown a clone of the famous C. percivaliana ‘Summit’ FCC/AOS for a few years and In 2006 I purchased 10 seedlings of Cattleya perciavalliana (‘Summit’ FCC/AOS x var. alba ‘Sonjia’) that my friend Leonard Gines of Hilo, Hawaii had made. He mentioned that this was the first step in a 2 part process for creating some semi-alba percivalianas.
The next year a couple bloomed and I sold them all only to be left with the runt of the group. That year it bloomed for the first time with one puny flower. I would be lying if I said that throwing it out didn’t cross my mind. But I reminded myself that the first blooming of any orchid is just that…the first time it has bloomed. And none of us where very good at anything the first time.
C. percivaliana (‘Summit’ FCC/AOS x var. alba ‘Sonjia’) 1st blooming
So I kept it around, and the next year I had 4 flowers, and the next I had 10. And by 2010 the 4th blooming for the runt of the group it had 16 flowers in a 8” pot. It was repotted that summer into a 10” clay pot and it really put on some size. It grew very well and in December of 2011 it bloomed with 26 flowers. It not only had more and more flowers each year but the quality of the flowers improved dramatically.
C. percivaliana (‘Summit’ FCC/AOS x var. alba ‘Sonjia’) 4th blooming
In the spring of 2012 it began its growth cycle and quickly over-took the clay pot. By fall I had more sheaths than I had ever seen before and when it bloomed in early December I was witness to 55 “ugly and stinky” flowers. It had more than doubled from the previous year and stayed in bloom through January. It’s probably not surprising that its one of my favorite plants by this point and I look forward to its arrival each Christmas.
C. percivaliana (‘Summit’ FCC/AOS x var. alba ‘Sonjia’) 5th blooming
The key is keeping your plants happy. Below I outline 3 simple pointers on growing orchids into specimens:
* Environment is king! Your plants will not grow to their potential without adequate light, air, water, and temperature.
* Recognize when your plants are “growing” and “resting” and treat accordingly. Most Cattleyas need more water when growing and a drier rest after the bulbs have matured.
* The larger the pot, the larger the potting media. A larger volume pot will dry-down slower and therefore will require larger sized bark to compensate. In pots 8” and above I fill up to half the pot with packing peanuts.
Me and Cattleya percivaliana (‘Summit’ FCC/AOS x v. alba ‘Sonjia’)
The Cattleya species….like my friend Alan Koch would say, the ‘real’ orchids. These are the orchids early explorers risked possible death by disease, wild animals and unfriendly natives to find. And once found would go to great lengths fabricating lies about the locations just to deceive the competition. These beauties called the cloud forests of Central and South America home, but would soon be imported to the stove-heated hot houses of England at any cost (monetary AND enviromental). And so the era of Victorian orchid mania began…
Believe it or not there was once a time when people learned to grow orchids by growing Cattleyas. This might seem alien to some since almost everyone who started growing orchids in the last 15 years probably started with a Phalaenopsis of some sort. But at one time the Cattleya was the King (or more appropriately Queen?) of orchid growing. In my opinion those growers who start with Phalaenopsis are at a disadvantage. Don’t get me wrong, they also are beautiful and much desired with there own significance. But so few other orchids grow like Phalaenopsis..and yet so many grow like Cattleyas. Bright light lovers, with a distinct seasonal growth pattern and a necessary rest period to succeed. You really couldn’t ask for a better master. They teach you when to water, when NOT to water and how to re-pot. Oh, and did I mention the large, fragrant flowers? A fortunate side effect of learning how to grow these ‘real’ orchids. All through keen observation and a little trial and error.