The Botanical Orchids

After mastering Cattleya, Paphiopedilum, and Phalaenopsis, the budding orchid collector will wish to conquer new worlds. The next step is to begin exploring the botanicals, less well known orchids that have not achieved broad commercial success but that nevertheless reward us with their beauty or their uniqueness. They are called botanicals because, being of little importance to commercial growers and florists, they were once considered interesting solely to botanists. Some of these botanicals are as strikingly handsome as members of the more familiar genera, but many are grown for their curious form and color or, in some cases, for their grotesqueness. Many, but by no means all, are small enough to fill in the spaces between larger plants in a collection.

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Sixty or so species of small to medium monopodial orchids related to Angraecum range from Africa to Madagascar and the islands of the Indian Ocean. Their short stems bear two ranks of leathery leaves. Erect to arching or drooping inflorescences carry many white or creamy flowers with long spurs. The flowers of many are fragrant at night. Grow these orchids in small pots filled with bark, or on rafts or logs. They like warm temperatures and medium to low light.

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Aërangis biloba
The 8-inch plants have four to ten opposing, 6-inch, leathery, dark green leaves with black dots. The pendent spike is 4 to 16 inches long and bears up to 20 long-spurred white flowers, sometimes faintly tinged with pink. Spring bloom.
Aërangis citrata
This miniature plant is less than 4 inches tall, with 3 1/2-inch leaves. Its many drooping, 10-inch spikes are crowded with tiny white, lemon-scented flowers. Spring bloom.
Aërangis luteoalba rhodosticta
Short-stemmed plants carry two or three 6-inch dark green leaves. Arching or drooping inflorescences to 1 foot long bear up to 24 unscented white or cream flowers with a red column. Spring and fall bloom.
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Like Aёrangis a native to Africa and the islands of the Indian Ocean, most in this genus differ in being large plants. Their flowers are star shaped, with spreading segments and a long spur attached to the lip. The flower color is white, cream, or greenish. Grow these in pots or baskets filled with a coarse mix; water and feed them freely throughout the year, keeping temperatures warm and giving them medium to high light. The plants will develop many aerial roots. Mist frequently, but early enough in the day to keep water from standing in the leaf bases at night.

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Angraecum distichum
Unlike most of its genus, this is a small plant with drooping, branching stems closely set with short, overlapping leaves in a braided effect. The stems can reach 10 inches in length. Small white flowers less than an inch wide appear between the leaves toward the branch ends. The flowers are fragrant at night. May flower in any season.
Angraecum eburneum
Large, erect stems form large clumps of two-ranked leaves that are leathery, deep green, and 12 to 16 inches long. The arching inflorescences are longer than the leaves and hold up to fifteen 2 1/2-inch green flowers with a large white lip. The flowers are fragrant and the lip uppermost, giving the flowers an upside-down look. Winter blooming.
Angraecum sesquipedale
The Latin species name means "foot and a half" and refers to the long spurs (actually only 10 to 12 inches long) on the spicily fragrant 5- to 8-inch white flowers. These are borne in groups of one to four on an inflorescence somewhat shorter than the 10- to 16-inch leaves. The plant can reach 4 feet in height. Winter blooming.
Angraecum x Veitchii
This hybrid between A. eburneum and A. sesquipedale is similar to the latter in size and carries six to ten 3-inch flowers that open greenish or ivory before turning pure white. Winter blooming.
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TULIP ORCHID. The tulip orchids may be epiphytic, but they are more commonly grown as terrestrials, in a mix suitable for Cymbidium. The pseudo bulbs are topped by three large (2 1/2-foot by 1-foot), thin, heavily ribbed leaves. The flowers spring from the base of the pseudo bulbs, each on its own short, stout stem. The sepals are larger than the petals and cupped around them, lending the flower its tulip shape. Feed and water these cool growers heavily during the summer growth period; provide medium to low light, shading them against sunburn. Then keep them on the dry side, with maximum brightness, until signs of new growth appear. Summer bloom. Crossed with Lycaste, tulip orchids form hybrids called x Angulocaste, whose flowers are less cupped, more open and triangular than the species.

Anguloa clowesii
The flowers are bright yellow and 3 to 3 1/2 inches wide; they have a fragrance reminisent of chocolate and mint.
Anguloa ruckeri
Flowers are somewhat less cupped than those of A. clowesii and are olive or bronze on the outside, heavily spotted with red inside. The flowers of some may be all red or ivory white.

Ansellia africana

LEOPARD ORCHID. These warm growers flourish in strong light. Tall (to 3 feet), cane like pseudo bulbs carry up to ten leaves 6 to 20 inches long and produce branching inflorescences with many 2-inch flowers, whose narrow yellow segments are heavily spotted with dark brown. Flowering is in winter. The plants are sometimes sold as A. gigantea or A. nilotica; those so named may have broader, more brightly colored flowers than the species.


Resembling Anguloa and Lycaste in form and flower, these orchids have firm, conical pseudo bulbs, each topped by a single large, broad, heavily veined, leathery leaf. Short stems from the base of the pseudo bulbs carry from one to five firm, waxy flowers that resemble those of cymbidiums. These plants grow best in a coarse bark mixture and bloom best when pot-bound. Give them intermediate to warm temperatures and bright light. Water and feed them freely until growth is completed; then give them cooler, drier conditions until new growth appears.

Bifrenaria harrisoniae
The leaves measure 12 inches by 5 inches, and the inflorescence carries one or two 3-inch, ivory to greenish yellow flowers with a rose to red lip. Some plants have a rosy suffusion, and a rare form is pure white. The spring flowers are highly fragrant.
Bifrenaria tetragona
These flowers are smaller than those of B. harrisoniae and are green, heavily suffused with brown. Summer bloom.
Bifrenaria tyrianthina
The flowers are somewhat larger than those of B. harrisoniae and are pinkish purple in color, paler toward the center. The lip is pinkish purple. Spring blooming.


This enormous genus contains over 1,000 species of highly diverse size, appearance, and nativity. Examples are found on every continent, but most are East Asian or Indonesian. Their general preference is for intermediate to warm temperatures and bright, diffused light.

Some have tightly clustered pseudo bulbs, others long, slender rhizomes with widely scattered growths. Some have large and fragrant flowers, others tiny ones that smell like dead animals. Most have a lip that is hinged and movable. The flowers may be large and solitary, or tiny and closely set on fleshy spikes. Some have narrow flowers that radiate outward from the top of the stalk like the ray flowers on a daisy; this last group is sometimes split from its parent genus and named Cirrhopetalum.

Bulbophyllum barbigerum
Tightly clustered, inch-thick, round pseudo bulbs produce 4-inch leaves and 8-inch inflorescences with as many as a dozen inch-wide purple, narrow-petaled flowers. Each has a projecting narrow lip tipped with a dense clump of fine red to purple hairs, which flutter in the lightest breeze.
Bulbophyllum graveolens (Cirrhopetalum graveolens)
Pseudo bulbs 3 inches thick are tipped by 18-inch leaves and a wheel-shaped inflorescence made up of long, narrow, yellowish green flowers with purplish red lips.
Bulbophyllum imbricatum
Grow this one for its oddity, not its beauty. The 5-inch flower stalk is closely covered with dark purplish, scale like bracts, making it resemble a slender lizard. The minute, dark purple flowers peep out from under the bracts a few at a time. Bloom is, if not striking, at least nearly continuous.
Bulbophyllum lobbii
Clumps of 2-inch pseudo bulbs produce single 4-inch flowers on a 6-inch stem. The flower is fragrant, long lasting, yellow striped with brown, and oddly shaped, with a tall dorsal sepal and lateral sepals that sweep outward, downward, and then back toward the stalk. Spring and summer bloom.
Bulbophyllum longiflorum (Cirrhopetalum umbellatum)
Clumping pseudo bulbs produce 3 1/2-inch leaves and 8-inch inflorescences topped by a half circle of cream to yellow flowers with red spots and a dark red lip. The inflorescence can measure 4 inches across. Fall and winter bloom.
Bulbophyllum macranthum
Inch-long pseudo bulbs produce fleshy 10-inch leaves. Solitary flowers are 2 1/2 inches broad, with dark red petals speckled with deeper red and green or yellow sepals. The lip is tiny.
Bulbophyllum medusae (Cirrhopetalum medusae)
The inflorescence is a mop head of 5-inch-long, straw-colored sepals that trail like the tentacles of a jellyfish. Fall and winter bloom.
Bulbophyllum ornatissimum (Cirrhopetalum ornatissimum)
Two-inch pseudo bulbs produce 6-inch leaves. The flower stalk is slightly longer than the leaves and carries three 4-inch yellow flowers marked with purple. The lateral sepals give the flowers their length; other flower parts are small.


These terrestrial plants are of two different origins and require correspondingly different care. Most tropical kinds are completely deciduous, blooming from the bare pseudo bulbs; those native to Japan, on the other hand, are evergreen and have no visible pseudo bulbs. Both kinds have erect or arching inflorescences bearing many flowers.

The tropical species have been in cultivation for many years and were popular house plants in Victorian England, but their size and leaflessness while in bloom limit their usefulness in today's smaller houses. The Japanese calanthes have been favorites in Japan for centuries, but they are so far only promising novelties elsewhere. They may be grown out-of-doors, with care, where temperatures rarely dip below freezing.

The tropical, deciduous species need bright light and warmth while their foliage and pseudo bulbs are developing. Once the leaves yellow and drop, dry out the plants thoroughly and repot them, discarding any withered pseudo bulbs and dead roots. Set the bases of the remaining bulbs in a rich, highly organic mix and raise the heat and humidity until winter flowering ensues. Feed and water heavily to produce large new growth.

In nature the Japanese species are woodland plants that grow in rich soil with leaf mold; in cultivation they are grown in lava rock and fertilized frequently. They are tolerant of cool to warm temperatures.

Calanthe discolor
Japanese. These plants have two to four 6- to 10-inch leaves; inflorescences 8 to 16 inches tall carry up to thirty 2-inch flowers. These may be dark brown to reddish orange, purple, yellow, bright green, or white, with a white or pink lip veined in red or yellow. The spring flowers are fragrant.
Calanthe sieboldii
Japanese. Similar to C. discolor, but with 2-foot inflorescences that carry 10 to 16 yellow or yellow green flowers. There are many other Japanese species, as well as a number of named hybrids that may someday reach North America.
Calanthe vestita
Tropical and deciduous. The pseudo bulbs are 8 or 9 inches tall, the inflorescences (to 3 feet tall) erect then nodding, carrying a dozen or more long-lasting flowers in winter. These are white with touches of yellow or red on the lip. Pleated leaves 2 feet tall follow. The variety 'Baron Schroeder' has pink flowers, as does the hybrid C. x Veitchii.


The species of Catasetum are remarkable in two ways: First, though most orchids contain both male and female parts (and are hence botanically "perfect"), catasetums may produce solely male or solely female flowers-and the sex of the flowers can change with plant stress. Second, male flowers shoot their pollen onto visiting insects by a trigger like device. A favorite jest of the seasoned orchid fancier is to persuade a novice to smell the flower; when nose touches trigger, it receives the pollen forcibly (but not painfully).

Catasetums are native to the American tropics and are generally plants with large, fleshy pseudo bulbs and large, pleated, deciduous leaves. They flourish in intermediate to warm temperatures, but need protection from strong sunlight.

Water and feed them liberally while they are actively growing; withhold water when leaves begin to fall, providing only enough to keep the pseudo bulbs from shriveling. Resume watering when new growth appears in the spring. Bloom period is fall and winter.

Catasetum expansum
Arching inflorescences display fragrant white to yellow or green flowers. 'Pireo' is a selection with green flowers heavily spotted in red.
Catasetum fimbriatum
The drooping inflorescence is up to 3 feet long, with many fragrant flowers. The male flowers are 2 inches wide, yellow to green with a pink to red suffusion and maroon streaks. The female flowers are yellowish green.
Catasetum integerrimum
Arching inflorescences to 16 inches carry up to ten hooded, fragrant, green to yellow green flowers with a few brownish red markings.
Catasetum macrocarpum
The foot-long inflorescence is erect or arching and bears up to ten fragrant flowers. These are waxy and yellowish green marked with purplish red; the lip has white markings.
Catasetum pileatum
A drooping inflorescence to 16 inches long carries several flowers. The male flowers are 4 inches wide and creamy white, sometimes tinged with green. The female flowers are ivory with a yellow lip.
Catasetum tenebrosum
Trailing inflorescences produce many dark purplish red flowers with large, bright yellow lips in spring and summer.
Catasetum viridiflavum
The gracefully arching foot-long inflorescences produce 4-inch fragrant flowers of ivory to pale yellow, with a pale orange interior lip.


Members of Clowesia resemble Catasetum, except that the flowers are (like those of most orchids) "perfect": that is, both male and female.

Clowesia rosea
The 5-inch trailing inflorescences hold several bell-shaped, inch-wide flowers of pale to deep pink. The lip is heavily fringed. Crossing this species with some of the large, flat-flowered catasetums has yielded attractive hybrids.
Clowesia russelliana (Catasetum russellianum)
This is similar to C. rosea, but with green flowers and a white-edged lip.
Clowesia warscewiczii (Catasetum warscewiczii)
The 12-inch drooping inflorescence of this orchid displays green to white flowers.


Species of Coelogyne are found from the high, cool Himalayas to the steamy jungles of Borneo and eastward. Flower colors range from pure white through orange and brown to green and nearly black. All plants are epiphytic and possess pseudo bulbs with leaves that emerge from the top. Some have rambling rhizomes with widely spaced pseudo bulbs; these are best grown on long rafts. The inflorescences may be erect or drooping, one or many flowered. In general, they thrive in cool to intermediate temperatures and bright light; exceptions are noted.

Coelogyne cristata
From high elevations in the Himalayas, this orchid requires cool growing conditions. (In fact, it can withstand near-freezing temperatures.) Where house or greenhouse summer temperatures are high, the plant may be suspended outside in a shady, breezy location. Fragrant flowers, three to ten per arching 6- to 12-inch inflorescence, are 3 to 4 inches wide and pure white, with yellow markings on the lip. Winter and spring bloom.
Coelogyne dayana
Trailing inflorescences 2 to 3 feet long are set with 20 to 30 cream to pale yellow to pale brown flowers, whose brown lips are marked with white. This Borneo native prefers warm conditions and blooms in spring or summer.
Coelogyne lawrenceana
The flower stem is 6 to 12 inches tall and carries a single 5-inch, greenish yellow to yellow flower. Its large red or white lip is tinged with yellow and marked with brown protuberances. Give it intermediate temperatures and expect spring bloom.
Coelogyne nitida (C. ochracea)
The erect or nodding 8-inch inflorescence carries from three to six fragrant white flowers with white lips marked red and yellow. Flowers are 1 1/2 inches in width. Summer bloom.
Coelogyne pandurata
Widely spaced pseudo bulbs indicate that this plant should be grown on a long raft or in a basket. The 6- to 12-inch inflorescence carries several 4- to 5-inch lime green flowers; their green lips are prominently marked with black. Summer bloom. Warm temperatures.
Coelogyne speciosa
This species is much like C. lawrenceana, but with yellowish green to greenish tan flowers having a brown lip. Fall bloom.
Coelogyne tomentosa (C. massangeana)
A drooping inflorescence to 18 inches long carries twenty to thirty 2-inch fragrant flowers of pale yellow, ivory, or light brown. Their lips are dark brown marked with yellow. Spring through fall bloom. Warm or cool temperatures.


SWAN ORCHIDS. The 60 or so species of swan orchids are native to tropical America. They are related to Catasetum and, like that genus, bear either male or female flowers. The common name springs from the long, arching column of the male flower, which resembles a swan's neck. The male flower is able to throw pollen onto pollenizing bees; the female flower has a shorter column with three hooks that strip the pollen from the bees. The flowers are fragrant. These plants like ample water and feeding while making new growth, followed by a brief rest period with reduced watering. Grow them in intermediate to warm temperatures, but protect them from strong sunlight.

Cycnoches chlorochilon (C. ventricosum chlorochilon)
The male inflorescence is 6 to 12 inches long, holding several 5-inch flowers of gray or pale green with white lips. Summer to fall bloom.
Cycnoches egertonianum
The male inflorescence is a drooping 16 to 36 inches in length, boasting up to 30 open flowers at one time. Fragrant and long lasting, each flower is 3 inches wide and green or greenish brown with purple markings. It is autumn flowering.
Cycnoches loddigesii
A drooping inflorescence 6 to 12 inches long carries a half dozen fragrant, 5-inch, pale green to greenish brown to yellow flowers mottled with reddish brown. The lips are white to pale pink. Fall bloom.
Cycnoches ventricosum
This species differs from C. chlorochilon in being somewhat smaller in flower and having petals and sepals swept backward.


Large size and muted flower color have kept these plants out of mainstream orchid culture, but one species is noteworthy as the largest orchid native to the United States.

Cyrtopodium punctatum
BEE-SWARM ORCHID. South Florida is home to this giant. Torpedo-shaped pseudo bulbs can reach a yard in height. Leaves on the younger pseudo bulbs are up to 2 feet long; they are shed during the winter. The inflorescence is stout, branching, and to 5 feet or more in height. The 1 1/2-inch flowers are greenish yellow heavily spotted with brown. Bloom is in spring. Plants can be grown in large pots or mounted on a tree. They like bright light, plenty of water during growth and bloom, and considerable drying-out while dormant.


These small orchids are grown for their graceful carriage and delightful perfume. Plants are small, compact, and attractive, their many pseudo bulbs topped by one or two leaves. Long arching and trailing spikes are closely set with tiny flowers in a chain or necklace effect. A small pot can contain many flowering growths, creating a fountain of bloom. They do well in intermediate temperatures and bright light.

Dendrochilum cobbianum
The leaves are a foot long. The arching then drooping spikes can reach 20 inches in length and contain dozens of  3/4 -inch white or greenish white flowers with an orange yellow lip. It can flower in any season.
Dendrochilum filiforme
Like D. cobbianum in size and habit, this species has very slender spikes displaying as many as 100 tiny yellow flowers. Summer and fall bloom.
Dendrochilum glumaceum
This species resembles D. cobbianum, differing in having large bracts among partly closed flowers of white with orange yellow lips. Fall bloom.
Dendrochilum uncatum
This is a miniature D. filiforme, with 4-inch leaves and a 4-inch straw yellow inflorescence. Summer and fall bloom.
Dendrochilum wenzelii
This species' leaves are 8 inches long by 1/4 inch wide. The inflorescence is packed with flowers 3/8 inch across. Although usually red flowers, these may be yellow, orange, or brown. The bloom season is winter.

Disa uniflora

Of the 100-plus species of the terrestrial African orchid genus Disa, only D. uniflora (D. grandiflora) is seen, and that but seldom. Native to stream banks near Cape Town, it is sometimes known as the "pride of Table Mountain." Plants are 6 inches to 2 feet tall and bear one to three (rarely more) 4-inch flowers. These are triangular in form; the dorsal sepal is hooded and orange red, strongly veined with bright red. The lateral sepals are bright red, the petals and lip inconspicuous.

Difficult to grow, this orchid is exacting as to water, soil, and temperature. It needs cool temperatures and a freely draining, neutral to acid growing medium based on sand and peat. The water it receives must be free of mineral salts and neutral to acid in reaction. Some hobbyists have had success growing Disa in pure coarse sand using hydroponic techniques.


As befits their name, these orchids often appear threatening-or at the very least bizarre. The conspicuous part of the flower is the triangle formed by the three sepals. The points trail out into long tails, the colors tend to be muted and mottled, and the texture may be warty or shaggy, with hairs. The ridiculous petals are tiny, looking somewhat like eyes peering out from the depth of the flower, and the inflated lip resembles the nose of a sinister clown.

These were once included in the genus Masdevallia and grow under its general conditions. However, despite their better tolerance of heat, the draculas are fussier, needing cool temperatures, shade, high humidity coupled with good air movement, and constant moisture without sogginess. They have no pseudo bulbs; the stalked leaves arise directly from the rhizome. Draculas should be grown in a loose, open medium in slatted wood or wire baskets, so that the flowers can emerge from the sides or bottom. They are definitely not orchids for beginners to grow.

Dracula chimaera (Masdevallia chimaera)
The leathery leaves are 10 inches long and 2 inches wide, the inflorescence up to 20 inches long. Flowers are roughly 6 inches wide, but each sepal ends in a 6-inch tail, bringing the overall measurement to 12 to 15 inches. The flower is buff colored and heavily spotted in maroon, with maroon tails. The entire flower is covered with hairs and warty growths. The flowering season is unpredictable.
Dracula erythrochaete
Less threatening in appearance than those of D. chimaera, the flowers of this species are an inch wide, with 2-inch tails terminating each sepal. The flower is creamy white, deepening to grayish or pinkish shades with maroon dots toward the center. Its tails are reddish brown. Blooms several times a year.
Dracula vampira
Drooping flower stalks carry flowers that may reach a foot across, colored yellowish white to yellowish green and striped along the length of the sepals in brownish black.


Drooping inflorescences bearing fantastically shaped flowers characterize these orchids from the American tropics. The heavily ribbed pseudo bulbs produce thin-textured, heavily veined leaves. Flowers are small, complex in structure, fragrant, and neatly and rather formally arranged on the hanging stems.

Grow them in intermediate to warm temperatures and light shade, in baskets or hanging pots filled with a loose, fast-draining medium. They thrive in high humidity and like frequent watering. When plants are in bud, rest them by withholding water for a brief period. Buyer beware: the names of the species are both confused and confusing.

Gongora armeniaca (G. cornuta)
The 2-inch flowers are yellow to orange, sometimes spotted in red. Summer bloom.
Gongora galeata
The foot-long drooping inflorescence carries yellowish brown or rust-colored flowers with a hooked lip.
Gongora horichiana (G. armeniaca bicornuta)
This plant's flowers are bright red.
Gongora quinquenervis
This variable species may include plants known as G. bufonia and G. maculata. Its drooping spikes may be 3 feet long and its flowers yellow, red, white, or greenish, with or without spots and stripes.


The plants are clumps of unbranched erect or drooping stems sheathed by the broad bases of the short leaves. The general effect is that of a braided watch chain. The flowers are borne in clusters on short spikes and resemble those of oncidiums. They prefer bright light, a humid atmosphere, and intermediate temperatures. Grow these orchids in bark and water them freely, but withhold some water in winter. They flower over an extended period-sometimes all year.

Lockhartia lunifera
The stems are one foot tall and erect. The flower spike usually forms at the end of the stem and contains one or a few half-inch golden yellow flowers with a sprinkling of tiny purple dots.
Lockhartia oerstedtii
The erect stems are 1 1/2 feet tall. The flowers appear singly or in twos. A little less than an inch wide, they are bright yellow with an elaborately shaped lip marked with brown swellings.

Ludisia discolor (Haemaria discolor)

Grown for its foliage rather than its flowers, this is very likely the easiest orchid to grow. It thrives under the same conditions as an African violet-a rich, loose house plant potting mix, moderate light level, cool to warm temperatures, ample water with good drainage, and occasional light feeding. The stems branch and creep, rising at the ends to form rosettes of velvety, bronzy brown, 3-inch, broadly oval leaves veined with red. A slender flower spike 6 inches tall holds many tiny white flowers with yellow lips.

Easy to propagate, this is a good plant to share with friends: small pieces broken off root readily in moist potting mix. The plant is sometimes sold as L. discolor dawsoniana or L. dawsoniana.


Lycaste plants are deciduous or semi evergreen, dropping leaves in dry winters. Their leaves are large, thin in texture, and pleated. The flowers appear from the base of the pseudo bulbs before the leaves expand, or just as they begin to expand. Each short stem carries a single flower, but the pseudo bulbs may produce many of these flowering stems. The flowers consist of three large sepals and two smaller inner petals (usually of a contrasting color) that form a hood above or around the lip. Although the flowers are long lasting on the plant, they are easily bruised once cut.

Grow lycastes in light shade and cool to intermediate temperatures, using a cymbidium mix or a bark-based mix. The plants need little water during winter, but heavy watering should begin when the flowers and leaves appear and continue until new growth is completed. In addition to the species listed below, many other species and a number of hybrids and selections are occasionally available.

Lycaste aromatica
Each 6-inch flower stem carries a single 3-inch flower, but each pseudo bulb may produce a dozen stems. The sepals are yellow with a greenish tinge, the petals bright yellow. Flowers are strongly cinnamon scented when they bloom, in late winter and spring.
Lycaste brevispatha
Two-inch flowers on 4-inch stalks have pale green, pink-spotted sepals and white to rose petals. The lip is white.
Lycaste campbellii
The flowers are small, with green sepals, yellow petals, and a deeper yellow lip.
Lycaste cruenta
This species resembles L. aromatica, but has 4-inch flowers.
Lycaste denningiana
Winter flowers droop on long (20-inch) stems; they are large (5 to 6 inches across), with pale green segments and a bright orange lip. Leaves remain on the plant from season to season. It appreciates cool, dry conditions.
Lycaste deppei
Similar to L. aromatica, but sepals of the 4-inch flowers are green, heavily spotted with red; the petals are white, the lip yellow. Blooms in spring to fall.
Lycaste macrobulbon
The 2 1/2-inch flowers have greenish yellow sepals and whitish yellow petals. The lip is yellow with some brown spotting. The flowers bloom in spring and summer.
Lycaste macrophylla
The 3 1/2-inch flowers have green sepals with pinkish brown edges, white petals with pink spots, and a white lip with pink dots. Spring or summer bloom is usual, but this one may bloom at any time.
Lycaste skinneri (L. virginalis)
The leaves can reach 30 inches in length. The 12-inch flower stems bear 6-inch flowers, whose sepals are white to deep pink, their petals deeper pink to red, and their lips white to pale pink with deeper pink spots. There is a pure white variety, L. s. alba, and a number of named selections. This is the national flower of Guatemala. These plants do not require so decided a winter rest as other lycastes. Bloom is in fall and winter.
Lycaste trifoliata
Small plants produce small, apple green flowers with a heavily fringed white lip.


Native to misty mountain forests, these small orchids need cool, humid conditions along with good air movement. Because the plants take up little room, enthusiasts in favored areas can amass large collections (one grower offers 40 species). They grow out-of-doors in light shade with little protection where frosts are rare and summer temperatures moderate, and they are easy to manage where low night temperatures can be guaranteed.

These plants have no pseudo bulbs; stems bearing a single leaf arise in clumps from the creeping rhizome. The leaves are narrow, leathery, and dark green. Flowers arise singly or in few flowered clusters from the joint between leaf and stem.

The basic shape of the flower is a short tube broadening out into a triangle composed of the three sepals. The sepals usually end in long tails, and the flowers are large for the size of the plant. Petals and lip are tiny, scarcely visible inside the flower tube.

The 350 or so species entice collectors with their bright colors and odd shapes. A fad among collectors at the end of the 19th century, they faded from view for decades but have lately made a Masdevallia Proud strong comeback. A few (noted below) will tolerate intermediate to warm temperatures.

Grow masdevallia orchids in small pots filled with a medium based on fine bark. Many growers have also had excellent results with sphagnum moss. They should never become dry, but soggy conditions at the root can kill them. Their small size and love of relatively low light makes them good subjects for growing under lights.

Masdevallia ayabacana
Clumps of 10-inch leaves give rise to 18-inch stems that produce a succession of large yellow flowers shaded rusty red. Tolerates warmth.
Masdevallia coccinea
Leaves extend to 9 inches; flower stalks up to 16 inches long carry a single 6-inch flower, usually red but sometimes purple, pink, or white. The upper sepal is all tail; the lower two resemble baggy "Dutch boy" trousers nipped in at the ankles. This species likes cool summers. The variety harryana (M. c. harryana) is blood red. Spring bloom.
Masdevallia floribunda
The small (to 4 inches) plant produces many small, bell-shaped, short-tailed flowers from sprawling or trailing stems. The flower color is yellow dotted with many crimson spots; it may vary to purple.
Masdevallia ignea (M. militaris)
The leaves reach 8 inches in length, the flower stem, 16 inches. The latter produces a single 3 1/2-inch, bright red to deep red flower with a drooping upper sepal. The plant blooms several times a year.
Masdevallia reichenbachiana
Clumps of 6-inch leaves produce somewhat taller stems carrying one to three 2 1/2-inch flowers that are red on the outer portions, white within. Spring to autumn bloom. This species can take warm conditions.
Masdevallia rolfeana
Very like M. reichenbachiana, this differs in being a shorter plant with somewhat smaller, solid red flowers. Spring and summer bloom. Tolerates warmth.
Masdevallia strobelii
The 5-inch leaves are overtopped by a 6-inch flowering stem producing from one to four flowers in succession; these may repeat bloom for several years. The 1 1/2-inch mildly fragrant flowers are white with a bright orange center and orange tails. Tolerates warmth.
Masdevallia tovarensis
Six-inch flower stalks bear one to four 1 1/2-inch white flowers in succession, with repeat bloom in later years. Tolerates warmth.
Masdevallia veitchiana
The leaves are 10 inches tall, the flower stem 18 inches with a single 8-inch orange to vermilion flower that glistens with a profusion of tiny purple hairs. Early summer bloom.


The plants are variable in habit, but those commonly grown greatly resemble Lycaste, with pseudo bulbs bearing a single leaf and flowers arising singly from the bases of the pseudo bulbs. The flowers also resemble those of Lycaste: the large sepals produce a three-cornered flower with smaller petals and lip in the center. Most thrive in warm or intermediate temperatures, and require considerable shade.

Maxillaria nigrescens
The pleated leaves are 1 foot long. Flower stalks 5 inches tall carry 5-inch spidery-looking flowers of dark red, with a nearly black lip. Winter bloom.
Maxillaria picta
The 5- to 8-inch flower stalks carry thick-textured 2 1/2-inch tawny yellow flowers, heavily marked with purplish brown. Winter bloom.
Maxillaria sanderiana
The flowers are fragrant, 5 to 6 inches across, and ivory spotted with blood red. The white lip has yellow and red markings. Summer to fall bloom.
Maxillaria tenuifolia
This one is a pet because of its remarkable fragrance, which exactly mimics that of a freshly baked coconut pie. The leaves are grass like, rising from tiny pseudo bulbs strung along a rambling or climbing rhizome. Stems 2 inches long support 2-inch, thick, fleshy flowers of variable color- usually dark red marked with yellow. Summer to autumn bloom.
Maxillaria variabilis
This nearly ever blooming species resembles M. tenuifolia, but the flower color ranges from pale yellow to dark red, and the flowers are less than an inch wide. They have a mild lemon scent in the morning.

Phaius tankervilleae (P. grandifolius)

NUN'S ORCHID. Of the 50 or so species in this genus, only this one is likely to be seen. A large terrestrial orchid, it is native over a wide range from China to Australia, and plants from the northern regions can withstand temperatures down to 40°F (5°C), possibly lower. In fact, although in general the plants like warm to intermediate temperatures, they need a period of winter chilling to bloom satisfactorily. During that time they need little water. Pseudo bulbs to 3 inches tall support two to four large (1- to 3-foot), heavily pleated evergreen leaves. Flower spikes to 4 feet tall arise from the base of the pseudo bulbs and carry up to 20 fragrant, 4- to 5-inch brownish red flowers with a white lip. Bloom is in spring. Grow this orchid in a rich, loose, soil-based mix with a high organic content. In the deep South and Southern California, plants can grow outdoors. Elsewhere they can spend the summer outside in light shade.


These deciduous dwarf orchids have showy flowers and are quite hardy, being native to high mountains in India and China. They can be grown out-of-doors in light shade where frosts are rare and summer temperatures moderate, provided that they have perfect drainage, a rich peaty soil, and a minimal amount of protection in winter (meaning shelter from excessive rain and deep freezing). The small round or top-shaped pseudo bulbs produce one or two thin, pleated leaves. Flowers are large for the size of the plant and resemble small cattleyas. In most species they appear just as the leaves begin to show. Repot plants each year before growth begins, using a rich, highly organic, well-drained soil mix. Set several close together in a shallow pot for a big show, burying only the bottom quarter of the bulb. Water to begin growth; flowers will appear in the spring, followed by foliage. Continue to water and feed well until foliage yellows; then gradually dry off.

Pleione bulbocodioides
Purple, 3-inch flowers on 6-inch stalks have a white lip marked with reddish spots.
Pleione formosana
The 3- to 4-inch flowers are purple (sometimes white or pink); the fringed lip has a yellow center with brownish red markings.
Pleione forrestii
The flowers are yellow with brownish red spots on the lip.
Pleione praecox
This species resembles P. bulbocodioides, but its flowers are borne one or two to the spike in autumn as the leaves turn yellow.


This is another huge genus containing over 1,000 species. Most are small (some tiny indeed) with small, unshowy flowers that are nevertheless interesting for the oddity of their form-especially as seen under a magnifying glass. Many have unusual foliage. The pleurothallis are an acquired taste, but many people collect them avidly.

These plants lack pseudo bulbs; instead, the leaves emerge in clumps directly from the rhizome. In many species the flowering stem appears to emerge from the middle of the leaf. What produces this impression is that the leaf stalk and midrib surround the flower stalk for most of its length. Give these orchids cool to intermediate temperatures and partial shade.


These large, showy terrestrial orchids somewhat resemble reeds or gingers (Hedychium) in growth habit, forming clumps of leafy stems. The flowers, which are formed like cattleyas, are borne at the top of those stems. The showy flowers are generally short-lived, but new ones appear over a long season.

Pot them in a mix appropriate for cymbidiums and water lavishly until the stems are fully grown; then reduce watering for a month. They prefer intermediate to warm temperatures and tolerate sun except when in bloom (during spring, summer, and early fall). These make impressive tub plants.

Sobralia leucoxantha
This 3-foot plant has 4- to 5-inch white flowers with yellow to orange markings in the center. Pure yellow forms also exist.
Sobralia macrantha
A stately plant, this can grow to 7 feet-although 3 feet is more likely-and produces purplish red, 4- to 9-inch flowers during spring and summer. Among its variants are plants with deep red or pure white flowers.


The stanhopea orchids are among the more bizarrely spectacular of orchids. The flowers are large, powerfully fragrant, fleshy, heavy, and short-lived (though produced in abundance). Give them cool to warm temperatures and partial shade. Water and feed them freely until the pseudo bulbs have ripened; then reduce watering and increase the light supply.

Their form has been compared to giant moths, a sheep's skull, a flying bird with raised wings-even an eagle flying off with a squid! The complicated lip contains a scent-producing body to lure in the bee, a chute and bucket into which the bee falls, and an escape hatch that ensures that the bee will pick up some pollen on its way out.

Plant stanhopeas in a slatted wood or wire basket lined with sphagnum and filled with a coarse bark mix, with added leaf mold and dried cow manure. The pseudo bulbs produce one (rarely two) large, broad, pleated leaves. The inflorescence grows downward, burrowing through its planting mix and emerging from the bottom of the basket.

Stanhopea oculata
The 4- to 6-inch flowers, three to six per inflorescence, are white to yellow and spotted with reddish purple, with two dark eyes on the lip. Summer bloom.
Stanhopea tigrina
The 8-inch flowers, two to four per inflorescence, are yellow, barred and spotted with purplish brown. Summer to fall bloom.
Stanhopea wardii
Ten to twelve 6-inch flowers range in color from greenish white to deep yellow, with a fine sprinkling of red dots.

Vanilla planifolia (V. fragrans)

Of the many species only this, the vanilla of commerce, is likely to be seen-and then only in a sizable greenhouse (though it will grow and bloom indoors). A climbing vine that theoretically can grow to any length, it needs room, warm surroundings, bright light, and plenty of water throughout the year. Start the plant in a pot beneath a vertical piece of tree fern or a pole wrapped in sphagnum. As the plant elongates, support it with ties to the greenhouse framework. Don't fret if the stem dies off at ground level; aerial roots will keep the vine growing. The stems are thin, the 6-inch leaves thick and fleshy, and the short-lived, 5-inch flowers yellowish green. Hand pollination will induce the plant to produce vanilla beans.


Two species and many hybrids and named selections of Zygopetalum are becoming popular, especially in coastal California and similar climates. There they can be grown like cymbidiums, enjoying the same planting mix, light conditions, and watering and feeding regime. They like cool to intermediate temperatures, but are slightly more sensitive to cold than are cymbidiums.

The tightly clustered pseudo bulbs are sheathed by the bases of the evergreen, strap shaped leaves growing in opposite ranks like a fan. Flower spikes rise from the base of the newest pseudo bulb. The large, very fragrant flowers are usually a tiger-striped blend of green and maroon; the lips are white, finely netted with bluish violet to solid dark purple. Both of the species listed here are fall to winter blooming.

Zygopetalum intermedium
The inflorescence reaches 16 inches and has a half dozen or more 3-inch flowers.
Zygopetalum mackayi
The inflorescence is taller (to 28 inches) than that of Z. intermedium. One should not be too dogmatic about the difference, however; many experts feel that most of the plants sold are actually Z. intermedium.


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