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Vandopsis gigantea (South East Asia)

Many orchids are named after a person or maybe even a region or nearby landmark. This is done by “Latinizing” the name (i.e. the species epithet “lowii” was named after the 19th century naturalist Sir Hugh Low). But most names relate to something about the plant it self. It could be in relation to flower or foliage shape or color ( “citrina” means yellow while “cucumerinum” refers to cucumber shaped leaves) or even size. And with that- Vandopsis gigantea definitely gets my vote for most accurately named orchid with its nearly 4’ leaf span. The 3.5” flowers are produced in the early Spring and have a fragrance reminiscent of cedar or some even say an unidentifiable cologne. 

I grow mine in a 12” teak basket with live spanish moss (Tillandsia usenoides) growing over the roots in very bright filtered light…similar to how I grow most of my other vandacous plants. 

Paphiopedilum Chi Hua Dancer (gigantifolium x sanderianum)

Paph. Chi Hua Dancer may be a fairly new primary hybrid, but in my opinion it rivals some of the old classics for its intense color and graceful posture (I’m thing Prince Edward of York, St. Swithins, Lady Isabel). Looking at the flowers its hard to imagine a better “best of both worlds” scenario. Sanderianum opens the flowers up a bit while lending its tremendous petal length. It also seems to be dominant for intense dorsal striping and what I have always called its “third eye”- the dot in the center stripe. Gigantifolium intensifies the pouch and dorsal color while passing on its very unique white ovary- all of the color and contrast makes for an exceptional display.

It also exhibits typical hybrid vigor growing about twice the rate as our sanderianums

Catasetum expansum   (Ecuador) 

Catasetums, unlike most orchids, produce male and female flowers seperately (which look almost nothing alike) and are a fairly diverse group of orchids with color variations occurring among orchids of the same species from different regional areas. This led to a lot of confusion from a taxonomic sense and many species were described many times under different names. Most of the variation occurs in the more colorful male flowers and Catasetum expansum is no different. Flowers can bloom in varying shades of yellow to green and have intense spotting in reds and browns or have none at all.

This is a favorite of mine with its green flowers and egg yolk colored prominence on the lip. These tend to be visited by euglosine bees and as they are drawn into the flower by its fragrance and color it will inevitably brush by the “trigger” guarding the opening of the nectary and be smacked across the forehead by the pollen that is waiting compressed in the staminode. Once the bee has regained its composure, it usually will go about its business again this time depositing the pollen on the stigmatic surface of the flower and complete the pollination process (or stumble onto another flower only to be assaulted again).

I have written previously about the culture of Catasetums and their relatives under #cycnoches.

Dracula lotax (Peru, Ecuador)

Though probably the most commonly grown Dracula for anyone growing them outside the cool, humid cloud forests of South America. This miniature is still is better known for developing black tips on its leaves and bud-blasting on every flower spike it develops. But if kept on the cooler side when the inflorescence are forming you may see some of these beautiful flowers actually open and remind you just why you wanted to grow it in the first place. Like most Draculas it requires clean water and mild conditions to grow (and flower) well.

Phymatochilum brasiliense (syn. Oncidium phymatochilum)  Brazil

For most of its horticultural life Phymatochilum brasiliense was known as Oncidium phymatochilum where it sat convincingly until 2001 when it was sunk into Miltonia (?) due to molecular analysis. Its quit obvious that it evolved along similar lines with Oncidium and so was later placed into its own genus by the late Eric Christensen.

  I grow this warm and bright in both a free draining bark mix and a cork mount. I’ve found that the foliage and bulbs will eventually take on a very bronzey appearance that I find appealing. This plant gets watered 6 days per week year round with 1/4 strength fertilizer every week. 

Cycnoches chlorochilon x Cycnodes Jumbo Micky (S. America)

Cycnoches and its hybrids are sometimes referred to as ‘swan orchids’ for the swan neck-shaped column that holds the anther cap at its end. They are also sometimes called ‘cigar orchids’ for the appearance of the pseudo-bulbs once they have lost their leaves in the fall. But either name doesn’t give justice to their brightly colored (and very fragrant) flowers that last for weeks on end.  They can be very rewarding subjects given the specific requirements need for long term cultivation. If you’re interested in growing these (or any of their relatives) see my post on #cycnoches in January 2012.

Coelogyne flaccida S.E. Asia/ South China at mid-high elevations.

Known as  Li Lin Bei Mu Lan in China, Coelogyne flaccida is a spectacular species if given the right conditions. The very fragrant flowers are borne on a cascading inflorescence that seems to freely hang from unusually “rippled” foliage. The trick is bright light but cooler temperatures (sometimes hard to achieve) with heavy watering when actively growing. This specimen is grown in an 8” clay pot and suspended high just below the direct path of our cooler.

Bro. sanguinea Laelia tenebrosa var. Vini Color 'Thunder Clap' Laelia anceps 'Marble Queen' Laelia purpurta var. Carnea Ryncholaelia digbyana

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.

C. warcewiczii v. semi-alba 'Bedforde' x Self C. percevalliana 'Summit' C. jenmanii 'Dunsterville' x Self C. leuddemanniana 'Thanh Nhi' C. gaskelliana 'Thanh Nhi' C. trianae

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. 

Hab. medusea 'Snow Kimono' Hab. medusea 'Snow Kimono'

Habenaria medusea ‘Snow Kimono’  S.E. Asia 

I grow a few different Habenaria species and medusea definitely gets the most attention when in bloom. It’s pretty obvious where its name comes from due to the “Medusa”-like appendages from the side lobes. When the flowers open these parts poke out from the developing bud looking cream colored and wrinkled with the appearance that they could never be ironed out straight. But within a few days (and with good humidity) they somehow become disciplined and turn crisp white with a contrasting red staminode.

Most Habinarias are grow as terrestrials and hail from tropical areas with distinct wet/dry seasons. Extra care must be taken to give them a completely dry winter rest (about late October). At this point the foliage will die back and the pot must be left dry until new growth commences in the Spring (usually March). When they are in active growth they should be kept damp in a well drained media and fertilized regularly. 

Since they take up almost no room in the winter, I crowd them all together under a T5 light setup I use for flasks where they will still get higher humidity and good light- but will not be watered and won’t use up valuable bench space.

Aerides falcata ‘Dynasty’ (Eastern Himalayas/S.E. Asia)

Also know as Zhi Jia Lan in China, Aerides falcata produces very fragrant light pink flowers reminiscent of cherry blossoms in early spring. The flowers appear delicate but actually are somewhat waxy and last weeks in bloom.  Its vandaceous growth and pendulous habit make it most suitable for a basket or sturdy mount, but it can be grown in a pot it provided a well drained media. 

I grow this warm and bright year round with a slightly drier winter and daily misting.