The Cattleya Alliance Orchids
This widely available and easily grown group of orchids contains some of the showiest
flowers in the family. It includes not only the familiar Cattleya but also the very similar
Laelia and the highly variable Epidendrum and Encyclia. Lesser known in their own
right, but valuable as parents in a complex assemblage of hybrids, are Brassavola,
Broughtonia, Caularthron (Diacrium), Rhyncholaelia, and Sophronitis.
All are native to tropical America. Some grow near sea level and thrive in moist
heat, but others are high-mountain plants that relish cool temperatures. All require
bright light and appreciate a
humid atmosphere. Most can tolerate a wide range of
conditions, however, and therefore make good choices for the novice grower.
Newer varieties range from white and the palest pink to yellow, orange, red, deep
purple, green, and nearly blue. Flowers of some species are striped, spotted, or flushed
with bronze and dark green, and many display lips of strongly contrasting colors. Although many of the 50-plus original species are available to
enthusiasts willing to seek them out, most of the cattleyas on
offer today are complex hybrids between several species, or even
between different genera.
For cultural purposes, cattleyas can be divided into two
classes. The unifoliate types have fat pseudo bulbs with a single
thick, leathery leaf, whereas the bifoliate types have thinner
pseudo bulbs topped by two or three leaves. Unifoliates have
clusters of two to six large flowers with showy lips; the bifoliates
have larger clusters of smaller flowers.
Cattleyas are sun lovers, and when grown indoors do best in
a west or south window. They are considered intermediate in
terms of their heat requirement: 55° to 60°F (13° to 16°C) night
temperatures rising by 15°F (9°C) during the day. Bifoliates do best at the higher end of that range, but all
will survive at lower or higher temperatures. At lower temperatures their growth
will be slow and their flowering sparse. At consistently higher temperatures
orchids grow rapidly but flower less. Occasional temperatures of 95°F
(35°C) for a few hours will not harm your orchids, so long as the
humidity is high and air circulation good.
Pot cattleyas in bark or a bark-perlite mixture
and keep containers on the small side, as the plants flower better when
their roots are confined. Overpotting is likely to result in root damage caused by an excess of damp
Following the correct watering procedure is the
key to success with cattleyas. Plants should dry out between waterings, but
these need to be more frequent during warm, bright weather when plants are
transpiring freely and in a state of active growth. In winter keep orchids on the dry side, but not so dry that their
pseudo bulbs shrivel.
Feeding is best accomplished by means of a liquid plant
food. Because bark contains little in the way of nutrients,
feedings of plants potted in it must be frequent. Generally speaking, feed twice
a month in spring and summer, while growth is rapid, and cut back to once a
month the rest of the year. If the planting medium is very dry, water the
orchids before feeding them.
- Cattleya aclandiae
- Bifoliate. Short pseudo bulbs 3 to 8
inches tall produce two or three short (2- to 3-inch), roundish
leaves. The flowers are 3 to 4 inches across, heavy in substance,
and brownish green heavily spotted with dark purple. The lip is
purple with dark veins and white side lobes. The highly fragrant
flowers appear singly or two to a stalk and bloom in spring or
early summer. This cattleya is easy to grow and a valued parent
for short stature and heavy substance.
- Cattleya amethystoglossa
- Bifoliate. A tall (to 40 inches) plant
with clusters of six to eight (possibly many more) 4-inch, white,
fragrant flowers with scattered purple spots and a purple lip. The
flowers bloom in spring, sometimes again in fall.
- Cattleya aurantiaca
- Bifoliate. Plants grow 10 to 24 inches with
clusters of eight to twelve 1 1/2- to 2-inch flowers. The flower color is bright
orange, varying from yellow to nearly red. The flower
period is February to March. This orchid is easy to grow.
- Cattleya bowringiana
- Bifoliate. Grows to 2 feet tall and bears
five to twenty 2- to 3-inch rosy purple flowers. A blue form is a
parent of C. Portia, a very old hybrid still used in the production
of blue cattleyas. This orchid is easy to grow.
- Cattleya eldorado
- Unifoliate. Pseudo bulbs 3 to 6 inches tall are crowned by a single thick,
leathery leaf to 8 inches long. The flowers are 5 to 6 inches across and white
or white shaded with pale rose. The lip is rich purple, white at the base and
with a yellow blotch at the throat. Some plants have pure white flowers marked
only by a yellow blotch on the lip. The flower season is
summer or early fall.
- Cattleya gaskelliana
- Unifoliate. Resembles C. labiata, with somewhat larger and paler flowers.
Flowers in summer.
- Cattleya harrisoniana
- Bifolate. Thin pseudo bulbs 10 to 20 inches tall carry a pair of narrow
4-inch leaves. The flowers appear in late summer (and occasionally in other
seasons); they are 2 to 3 inches across and purplish rose in color, with a
yellow throat to the lip. Their texture is heavy. These orchids are considered easy to bring into bloom.
- Cattleya intermedia
- Bifoliate. Fifteen-inch plants bear two to five 4-inch
flowers that are pink with whitish or purplish shading. Fragrant flowers
appear in spring. Plants with strong splashing of contrasting colors at their
petal tips are called C. i. 'Aquinii'. Many splash-petaled varieties have this
plant in their ancestry.
- Cattleya labiata
- This species has club-shaped
pseudo bulbs up to 10 in (25 cm} tall, bearing one
leaf. The flowers, one to five in number, emerge
from a sheath or a sheath within a sheath. They are
large, about 5 1/2 in (14 cm) in diameter. The color is
variable from white through pale pink to magenta.
Similar species (some have been occasionally
regarded as variants within a single species) include
C. dowiana (a yellow), C. mendelii, C. mossiae, C.
trianae, C. warneri and C. warscewiczii. All these
have showy flowers and are, or used to be, what most
people could identify as an orchid. The magnificent
large-flowered cattleyas found in orchid collections
today have these bloodlines and may have a family
tree going back 100 years.
- Cattleya leopoldii
- Bifoliate. Tall, thin pseudo bulbs can reach 4 feet, although they are
usually shorter. The leaves, two or three to a growth, are tough, thick, and up
to 5 inches long. The foot-long spike carries as many as 20 fragrant 3- to
4-inch flowers. These are greenish brown or deep brown with faint spotting and
have a purple lip with a white base. The flower season
- Cattleya loddigesii
- Bifoliate. Fifteen-inch plants carry two to nine 4-inch
flowers of purplish pink with a paler lip. A pure white form is C. l. alba; C. I. coerulea has flowers of soft lilac blue. Fall or winter bloom.
- Cattleya lueddemanniana
- Unifoliate. Each 6- to 10-inch pseudo bulb bears
a single 5- to 8-inch leaf. Spring flowers, three to four on a spike, are strongly
fragrant and up to 8 inches across. The color is pinkish purple with lighter
shadings. The lip is similar, with a yellow suffusion in the throat and a pattern
of deep reddish purple lines toward the tip. An especially fine white form is
sometimes seen. This species likes warmer conditions than most cattleyas. These
orchids have flowers in spring.
- Cattleya luteola
- This is a dwarf plant with clustered
pseudo bulbs and 2 in (5 cm) yellow flowers clustered
on a short stem. Not common in cultivation but,
mated with Sophronitis coccinea, produced the very
successful hybrid Sophrocattleya Beaufort.
- Cattleya mendelii
- Unifoliate. Similar to C. labiata. Large (7- to 8-inch)
flowers are pale purplish pink, with a white lip tipped with rich reddish purple.
These orchids have flowers from May to July.
- Cattleya mossiae
- Unifoliate. Similar to C. labiata, with pink or purplish pink
6- to 7-inch flowers in May and June. Sometimes called Easter cattleya.
- Cattleya percivaliana
- Unifoliate. Pseudo bulbs to 6 inches long carry a
single 4- to 10-inch leaf. Flowers 4 to 5 inches across are borne two to four per cluster. Their color is rosy lavender with a deeper-colored lip. The flowers have an odd fragrance and appear around Christmastime.
- Cattleya schilleriana
- Bifoliate. Plants 4 to 10 inches tall have 6-inch leaves occasionally spotted with red. Short spikes carry one or two 3- to 4-inch fragrant flowers of a
heavy, waxy texture. Colors range from olive green strongly spotted with brown to a deep
purplish brown. The lip is pale yellow, heavily marked with purple. Bloom season is late
spring to early summer.
- Cattleya schroederae
- Unifoliate. Like C. trianaei, but with a distinctive fragrance and
a more frilly lip, whose center boasts a deep orange blotch. Flowers in spring.
- Cattleya skinneri
- Bifoliate. Plants 12 to 24 inches high carry clusters of 5 to 19 or more
3-inch, fragrant, rose purple flowers. The variety C. s. alba has white flowers.
One of the easier species to grow, tolerating high temperatures and dry air.
Abundant in Central America, it is the national flower of Costa Rica. Flowers in spring.
- Cattleya trianaei
- Unifoliate. Foot-tall pseudo bulbs with 6- to 12-inch leaves carry
clusters of three or four 6- to 9-inch lavender flowers, with variations from white to
bluish purple. 'Aranka Germaske' is a white form. Flowers are in winter; this species is
sometimes called Christmas cattleya.
- Cattleya walkeriana
- This is a smallish plant. An unusual feature,
for cattleyas, is that the flower stem arises not from
the terminal bud at the top of the pseudo bulb but
from the base of the pseudo bulb. The flowers,
typically two to a stem, are relatively large at 3 in
(8 cm) across, of good substance and quite showy.
Typical color is in shades of purple but pure whites
are also seen. It is one parent, with Laelia pumila, of
the much-awarded hybrid Laeliocattleya Mini Purple.
Line breeding has developed some fine forms of this
species. The long rhizomes are a disadvantage,
making for a rambling plant that quickly grows over the
side of a pot. It flowers in winter.
- Cattleya warscewiczii
- Unifoliate. Four-inch pseudo bulbs carry a single 8-inch leaf. The flowers
can reach 7 to 9 inches in diameter. Color is purplish pink; the deep purple lip
has a bright yellow center. Flowers are in June and July.
Nearly 60 of these intergeneric crosses have resulted in such
popular and often-found genera as x Epicattleya, x Laeliocattleya, x
Brassolaeliocattleya, x Sophrolaeliocattleya, x Potinara, and such oddities as x Hasegawaara and
Only a few of these genera are widely sold, but the number of varieties and
individual selections is immense. The list that follows gives the more common hybrid genera,
along with the abbreviations commonly used to denote them.
Individual plants and crosses (grexes) are too many to name; a few of the more
familiar crosses are mentioned. Remember that grexes are "flocks" of individuals
that may vary considerably, although any member of one of these grexes is likely to
be a fine plant. In addition, each grex name may be followed by a number of names set
off by single quotation marks (x Brassolaeliocattleya Pamela Hetherington
'Coronation', for instance), which guarantees that the plant is truly superior.
- x Brassocattleya (Bc.)
- These are hybrids between a cattleya and one of several species of Brassavola. Those derived from B. digbyana (now called
Rhyncholaelia digbyana) are distinguished by their large flowers with heavily fringed
lips. A well-known grex is Bc. Deesse. Hybrids based on B. nodosa and its related
species are smaller and less widely grown.
- x Brassolaeliocattleya (Blc.)
- Many of the finest and most familiar cattleyas
actually belong to this compound genus. Plants have been bred for full, rounded flowers
with broad petals and sepals. Many have fringed lips derived from the Brassavola (now
Rhyncholaelia) digbyana ancestor. The following are a few of the crosses whose names
you are likely to encounter.
- Fortune. Large, rounded, golden yellow flowers with a ruffled orange lip.
- Greenwich. Chartreuse green flowers with a touch of purple in the lip.
- Malworth. Large, shapely flowers of apricot yellow with pink markings on the lip.
- Mem. Crispin Rosales. Large, deep lavender flowers with a deep purple lip and powerful fragrance.
- Mem. Helen Brown. Pale green flowers with a purple lip; strongly fragrant.
- Norman's Bay. Large, deep lavender to purple flowers with a deep purple lip.
- Port of Paradise. Pale green flowers with a ruffled lip and powerful perfume.
- x Cattleytonia (Ctna.)
- Crosses between cattleyas (chiefly bifoliate ones) and
Broughtonia sanguinea produce compact plants with long clusters of
flowers in shades of pink, purple, red, or yellow.
- x Epicattleya (Epc.)
- Flowers of moderate size are carried on tall, erect stems
rising well above the foliage. Fireball has bright orange flowers on 16-inch stems. Purple
Glory has deep lavender flowers on 24-inch stems.
- x Laeliocattleya (Lc.)
- These resemble cattleyas in every
detail. Vigorous plants have either one or two leaves per
pseudo-bulb. Among the grexes that have produced show
winners are Bonanza (deep lavender flowers with two yellow
eye spots), Nippon (white flowers with a red lip),
and Stephen Oliver Fouraker (white flowers with a red lip).
- x Potinara (Pot.)
- This cross of Cattleya, Brassavola, Laelia, and Sophronitis has
combined the bright color and small size of
Sophronitis with the vigor of the other three
species. The resulting plants are compact and have
flowers in rich shades of red, orange, or yellow.
Keynote (yellow flowers), Flameout (red flowers), and World
Venture (orange flowers) are representative grexes.
- x Sophrocattleya (Sc.)
- These offspring of Sophronitis and Cattleya are very
small plants with bright orange, yellow, or red flowers.
- x Sophrolaelia (Sl.)
- Crosses between Sophronitis and Laelia produce small
plants with brightly colored flowers. Grexes include Gratrixiae (red flowers), Orpetii (red or
pink flowers), and Psyche (red flowers).
- x Sophrolaeliocattleya (Slc.)
- Smaller growers than other cattleyas, these
also appreciate cooler growing conditions. Many grexes have red flowers derived
from their Sophronitis parentage. Widely grown grexes are Anzac, Jewel Box,
Madge Fordyce, and Paprika.
Brassavolas are plants of generally drooping habit that are best grown attached to
rafts or in baskets. Leaves, one to the pseudo bulb, are narrow and roundish in cross
section. Flowers are white, greenish, or ivory, and fragrant at night. Flowering occurs in
summer, sometimes throughout the year. Plants like bright light and a
pseudo bulbs have completed their growth. They thrive in hot climates.
- Brassavola cucullata
- Each spidery 2-inch flower is carried on a drooping 6-inch stem.
The lip is heart shaped and white with green tints.
- Brassavola (Rhyncholaelia) digbyana
- Although not widely cultivated now, this orchid from Central
America is historically famous for being widely used
by early hybridizers to create the intergeneric
hybrids Brassocattleya and Brassolaeliocattleya. Their
idea was to incorporate the spectacular fringed lip
into hybrids. The flowers are large and greenish and
can be grown with cattleyas.
- Brassavola nodosa
- LADY OF THE NIGHT. Its inflorescence rises to 6 inches above the
narrow leaves. The three to five flowers are 1 1/2 inches or more across, the petals and
sepals narrow and pale green, ivory, or white. The lip is 3 inches wide, green and white
spotted with maroon. It may stay in bloom throughout the year. This is a good orchid for
beginners who can provide warm, sunny conditions.
A West Indian genus of one or two species, although
some authorities recognize more.
The clustered pseudo bulbs are less than 2 inches tall and topped by narrow 6-inch
leaves. Flower clusters to 20 inches tall are sometimes branched, bearing up to fifteen
1-inch flowers of bright red, with an ivory or yellow lip marked in bright purplish red.
- Broughtonia sanguinea
- A medium-sized orchid with many showy crimson flowers borne on long stems in
fall and winter. Line breeding has produced
beautifully colored round flowers up to 1 1/2 in (4 cm)
in diameter. Yellow and white forms have been
discovered. This is a lowland tropical orchid but can
be grown the same way as cattleyas. It does like
plenty of light and dislikes wet roots. For the latter
reason it does well if established on a slab. The
species has been crossed with other members of the cattleya alliance and some very beautiful hybrids are available.
Caularthron bicornutum (Diacrium bicornutum)
Tall (10-inch) pseudo bulbs bear strap shaped leaves to 8 inches long. A
slender erect or arching flower stalk reaches 1 foot long with ten to fifteen fragrant,
2- to 3-inch white flowers shaded in pale pink. This hybridizes with Cattleya
to form the rarely seen x Diacattleya.
The large genus Epidendrum has been split into two genera on technical grounds, with
many of the species having pseudo bulbs being transferred to Encyclia. (Many encyclias
are still familiarly known as epidendrums.) A very large genus native to Florida, Mexico,
the Caribbean, and South America, its species differ widely in
appearance. Most thrive in bright light and intermediate
after bloom and before new root and shoot formation starts.
- Encyclia adenocaula (Epidendrum nemorale)
- The 3-inch pseudo bulbs are topped by one to three leathery, foot-long
leaves. Flower spikes bearing many 2- to 3-inch flowers may reach a yard in
length. Their color varies from pink to deep purplish pink with dark markings;
the lip is paler, with dark streaks. Flowers in spring or summer.
- Encyclia alata
- One to three narrow, 20-inch leaves top
the pseudo bulbs. The fragrant, branching inflorescence
can reach 4 feet in height, with many pale green or
yellowish green flowers heavily marked with brown. The lip is white with 4
dark red veins.
- Encyclia aromatica
- Clustered pseudo bulbs are topped by
narrow 12-inch leaves and a branching inflorescence that can rise
to 3 feet. The flowers are highly fragrant, cream or pale green
with a pale lip veined in reddish brown.
- Encyclia citrina (Cattleya citrina)
- A high-altitude spring- and summer-flowering species growing at altitudes of
up to 7200 ft (2200 m). The pseudo bulbs and leaves
have a silvery gray appearance and the plant tends
to grow downward with pendulous flower stems. For
this reason it is easier to manage on a slab. The
flowers are fragrant and golden yellow, borne singly,
but they do not open fully. It needs to be kept fairly
dry in winter.
- Encyclia cochleata (Epidendrum cochleatum)
- COCKLESHELL ORCHID.
The pseudo bulbs are up to 10 inches long, topped by narrow 16-inch leaves. The
flower stalk may rise 20 inches; it carries several yellow green flowers nearly
3 inches across. The inch-wide lip is at the top of the flower and is a deep
blackish purple with a purple-veined white base. Flowering can be
continuous over a number of months. This is a good orchid for beginners.
- Encyclia cordigera (Epidendrum atropurpureum)
- Short, clustered pseudo bulbs 1 1/2 inches high are surmounted by 6-inch leaves. The arching or
drooping flower stalk carries several large (to 3 inches), dark purple or brown
flowers with pink lips.
- Encyclia mariae
- The orchid looks like an upright
growing Encyclia citrina but the flowers are quite
different. These have glossy jade-green sepals and
petals and a large white lip. The 2 1/4 in (6cm) fully
open flowers come two to four on a stem in summer.
The color of the flowers is quite striking and the
plant always attracts attention when exhibited.
- Encyclia prismatocarpa
- Pear-shaped pseudo bulbs are crowned with foot-long leaves.
Tall flower clusters contain many 2-inch flowers of yellowish green spotted with blackish
purple. The lip is bluish purple with a white margin.
- Encyclia radiata
- The fragrant, spring-to-summer flowers in 9-inch spikes are cream to
greenish white, striped in purple.
- Encyclia tampensis (Epidendrum tampense)
- Native to Florida and the Bahamas, this orchid has 2-inch pseudo bulbs, narrow 16-inch leaves, and 2
1/2-foot sprays of fragrant, tan to olive green, 1 1/2 -inch flowers with purple-veined white lips.
- Encyclia vitellina (Epidendrum vitellinum)
- Leaves 10 inches long at most top the
2 1/2-inch pseudo bulbs. The 16-inch rigidly erect flower stalk carries a dozen or more
inch-wide orange to scarlet flowers with yellow lips. Blooms over a long period under
These orchids are of two types. Those with firm pseudo bulbs very much resemble
Encyclia, which once was included in this group, and they require similar treatment. Species
with tall, soft, cane like stems are terrestrial and can be planted in open-ground beds
where frosts are rare and light. This second group grows freely and easily, blooming
much of the year. The stems and aerial roots sometimes tangle and become untidy, but
the plants put on a good show given rich, well-amended soil and ample water.
- Epidendrum ibaguense
- Slender canes grow to 6 feet.
Leaves 5 inches long form two ranks on opposite sides of the
stems, which branch, root freely at the leaf joints, and even
produce rooted offshoots. The leaves often turn reddish in hot sun.
Large clusters of small red, orange, or pink flowers appear at the
tops of the stems. Bloom can be continuous. Many color forms
exist among hybrids of this species-lilac, pink, yellow, and
white. Although named varieties exist, most are sold simply by
color as "reed-stem epidendrums."
- Epidendrum pseudepidendrum
- Unbranched stems grow up to a
yard in height, with two-ranked leaves in the upper half. The
flower cluster at the end of the stem may be 6 inches across.
Individual flowers are startlingly colored: bright green with a
bright orange lip. Not as hardy as E. ibaguense.
- Epidendrum radicans
- This orchid has long (39 in
or 1 m), thin stems with many aerial roots. Clusters
of 1 1/2 in (4 cm) flowers are borne on terminal
elongating stems. Flower size is variable, as is color,
which is commonly orange or red. E. ibaguense is a
similar or the same species but there are others, all
referred to as reed stem epidendrums. E. radicans is classified as a warm-grower
but is fairly tolerant temperature-wise. In frost-free areas it can be grown in
the garden in full sun. Where there are only light frosts, and the air
temperature does not go below zero, this orchid can be tried under a tree or against the wall
of a building protected by the eaves of the roof, but
it must not be in shade for more than an hour
or two each day. It needs quick-draining material
around the roots. In the greenhouse it can be grown
in pots in the peat-based mix suggested for
cymbidiums but the medium should be watered
before it has quite dried out. In good strong light it
will provide a display of flowers for months.
Unsuitable for the home, even under lights.
- Epidendrum stamfordianum
- Pseudo bulbs to 10 inches tall carry
10-inch elliptical leaves. The 2-foot, branching inflorescence is
crowded with fragrant, 1-inch-wide yellow or green flowers
spotted with reddish brown. The lip is white, sometimes flushed with pink.
This very large (more than 60 species and a host
of varieties) genus is closely related to Cattleyas.
Flowers of the larger species greatly resemble the familiar florist's cattleyas,
and some of the smaller ones display cattleya-type flowers on plants
barely an inch tall. Although many are epiphytes, a number of the Brazilian species
grow on rocks, taking their nourishment from mosses and their own decaying
These orchids are subject to
intense sun and heat as well as to long periods without rain, but
they do enjoy a humid atmosphere. The Mexican species L. anceps
and L. autumnalis are quite hardy, growing in sheltered places
outdoors along the California coast as far north as the San
Francisco Bay Area. In colder climates, give them cattleya treatment.
- Laelia anceps
- An epiphytic or lithophytic species
from Mexico with four-sided pseudo bulbs and up to six flowers on a long stem.
The weight of the flowers bends the stem to a semi-pendulous position -they are
displayed best like this and so no attempt should be made to stake the stem
upright. The flowers may be up to 4 in (10 cm) in diameter and are typically
rose-purple but there are other color variations, including pure white. Flowers
in winter or spring. This orchid likes good light and cooler conditions
than cattleyas. It is a good plant for beginners and a popular plant with many
growers. This orchid will tolerate
temperatures down to 40°F (4°C) in winter.
- Laelia autumnalis
- Similar to L. anceps, but this species
blooms in autumn. The lip is pinkish white with purple and
yellow markings. The variety L. a. alba has white flowers with a
yellow throat; 'Atrorubens' is large and very dark purple.
- Laelia jongheana
- A low grower from Brazil, with 2-inch
pseudo bulbs bearing a single 4- to 6-inch leaf and one or two
nearly 5-inch purple flowers.
- Laelia lucasiana fournieri (L. fournieri)
- A short plant (to 4 inches) bearing 1 1/2-inch white flowers with a yellow lip.
- Laelia lundii
- An interesting small species from
Brazil with stems of one to three white, rose-tipped
flowers. The flowers come up with heavy, cylindrical
leaves in spring and open before the leaf is fully
developed. This orchid will not flower unless the
plant is kept quite dry through the winter months.
- Laelia pumila
- A short plant (to 4 inches) with 4-inch, fragrant purple flowers.
- Laelia purpurata
- The national flower of Brazil. This orchid
is an epiphyte and a larger plant than any of the
other laelias mentioned here, being up to 20 in
(50 cm) high. There are up to five 6 in (15 cm)
flowers on a stem. The color is typically pink but
many color forms exist, including white petals and
sepals with lips of various colors. The species is
widely line bred by Brazilian hobbyists and literature
catalogs over 100 different varieties, with some
reported to change hands at high prices. This species
flowers from late spring to fall.
- Laelia sincorana
- The roundish leaves are 1 1/2 inches long, the purple flower more
than 3 inches wide. This is a good plant for beginners who can provide strong light.
- Laelia tenebrosa
- Large plants bear three or four flowers on a foot-long stem. These
6-inch flowers are bronze with a purple lip.
- Rupicolous laelias
- Rupicolous means growing on rocks and that is what this group of species does, in
Brazil, some in full sun. They are relatively small
plants and most bear several flowers on longish
stems. The leaves are upright, ending in a sharp
point, said to have evolved as a deterrent to grazing
animals. They are spring-flowering but often flower
at other times in cultivation. There seems to be at
least 40 species in this section, some only recently
introduced into cultivation, and they are well worth
a place in any collection. These orchids are not
difficult to grow if given good light and a medium that dries out fairly quickly after watering. The deep
yellow Laelia briegeri is one of the most beautiful
species, with 2 1/4 in (6 cm) flowers with wider sepals
and petals than others in the section. It has been the
parent of some colorful hybrids. Two rather similar
plants, L. lucasiana and L. longipes, have marginally
smaller magenta flowers with yellow lips. A great
conversation piece is the tiny L. lilliputiana, only
2 1/4 in or 6 cm tall, with rose-colored flowers. It is in
fact one of the smallest plants in the entire cattleya alliance.
Two orchids once included in the genus Brassavola comprise this genus. Plants have thick
pseudo bulbs and thick, gray green leaves. They grow under cattleya conditions, but like
even more sunlight.
- Rhyncholaelia digbyana (Brassavola digbyana)
- The powerfully fragrant flowers are 6 inches or more across and
yellowish green in color, with a broad, white,
heavily fringed lip. This lip accounts for the
fringing in the hybrid genera x Brassocattleya
and x Brassolaeliocattleya. (The older genus name is used to form the compounds.)
- Rhyncholaelia glauca
- The fragrant flowers are 5 inches in width and white, green, or pale
lavender in color, with a white lip marked in purplish red.
Nine species of small, cool-growing Brazilian orchids display relatively large and showy
red flowers. Most bloom in autumn and winter. These are not the easiest of orchids to
grow: try them in shallow, broad pots or on rafts of bark. They should never go entirely
dry, but overwatering must be avoided. Reduce water in winter. They need light shade
and good ventilation.
These orchids have donated their compact growth and bright color to a large
group of intergeneric hybrids. Sophronitis coccinea is the most important species.
Both the pseudo bulbs and the short, fat leaves are an inch long. The inflorescence is
2 inches tall and carries one to three bright red flowers a little over an inch wide.
- Sophronitis cernua
- This is the most distinctive
member of the genus. It is a smaller plant than the
others and bears two to five 1 in (2.5 cm) orange-red
flowers on a spike. It seems to do well on a slab.
- Sophronitis coccinea
- This used to be called Sophronitis grandiflora. The 3 in (8 cm) high plants bear
bright scarlet flowers that are large (2 1/4 in \ 6 cm) in relation to the size
of the plant, though flowers much larger than this, resulting from line
breeding, have been exhibited. The flowers emerge with the developing leaf in
spring. The species grows in Brazil as an epiphyte in damp rainforests in
partial shade. In cultivation this orchid should not be allowed to dry out
completely in summer, but needs watering with discretion as the roots will decay
if kept permanently wet. These orchids reach flowering size in 2 in
(5 cm) pots. An effort should be made to keep them
in small pots as it seems to take much skill to
maintain the plants in good condition in pots larger
than 3 in (7.5 cm).
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