Articles About Orchids
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Articles About Orchids
   Old Man Winter is still sitting on his white blanket here in Uath huffing and puffing snowflakes and growing icicles everywhere you look. Despite his efforts to invade my greenhouse, I am warm and snug enjoying my orchids every day he keeps me indoors.
   During my daily visits to the greenhouse, I am greeted by one orchid that has been in bloom for literally months. I bet you would love to have an orchid that seems to be always in bloom. If so, you might consider Encyclia cochleata.

   Some may still find Encyclia cochleata under its old name, Epidendrum cochleatum. Approximately 150 to 200 Epidendrum species were separated in 1828 to the new genus. It was not until 1961 that Dressler re-established the genus.
   This move was due to their distinctive difference in column structure. Also of note is most of the selected species have pseudobulbs while the rest of the Epidendrum species tended to be reed-stemmed. This is not the case 100% of the time, but significant enough to include this trait in the decision to spin the group off into a new genus.
   Most Encylias can be found in nature from Florida in the United States to South America. The Mexico species were published in 1974, but it is interesting to note IF a hybrid was registered as a Epidendrum prior to 1961, Sander's will continue to use Epidendrum for its hybrid registration.
   Encyclia cochleata has been in the hands of collectors and orchidists for a very long time. In fact, it was the first epiphytic orchid to bloom in England way back in 1787. As I previously noted above, it was then called Epidendrum cochleatum. This natures' jewel has several common nicknames: cockle-shell orchid, black orchid, clamshell orchid, and purple-shell orchid.

   The blossoms appear to be very strange because the blooms are upside down and look like cockle shells. Each blossom has long sepals and petals that are twisted and are greenish yellow in color. Some say the blossoms remind them of a tiny octopus with the tentacles hanging down. The blossom lip is a dark purple shade with little stripes of yellow.
   Generally Encylias can be grown in the light and temperatures suitable for the common Cattleyas: around 3000-5000 foot-candles of light and temperatures of 55-60 F at night and around 70-85 F during the day. Most prefer being grown in baskets or mounted. As with all orchids, each species will have its own specific growing needs that it prefers for optimum growth.
   Encyclia cochleata is the perfect orchid for the beginner. It is easy to grow and will produce a flower spike which continues to grow for months producing new flowers as the old ones drop off. It is not uncommon for these orchids to be in flower for 6 months or even longer. It is also not a huge plant, so it will be happy sitting on a windowsill. Encyclia triandrum is another variety from Costa Rica that is even little smaller, and stays in bloom all year.
   Another of my very favorites, but is a little harder to entice to flower, is Encyclia citrina. This species was discovered in Mexico during the 17th century and is commonly called the "Yellow Serpent." This orchid loves to be mounted and hangs in a pendent manner. It has beautiful waxy yellow upside down blossoms that have a spicy fragrance. Encyclia citrina flowers in late spring and early summer. I find keeping mine on the dry side during the winter convinces it produce flowers every spring.
   Related to Encyclia citrina is Encyclia mariae. Also found in Mexico, it is a cool grower that likes moisture. This is a lovely small species with 2" pseudobulbs and 4" leaves. This little orchid is very striking when it is in bloom. The flower stalk grows to over 8" tall and bears three large greenish-yellow flowers with a huge lip that is white with green veins.
   Every orchid lover in Florida knows Encyclia tampense. A native of Florida, they grow attached to the palm trees (or anywhere where the climate is mild) with very little attention. Easy to grow indoors and blooms any time of the year, they are sold nationally under the nickname "Butterfly Orchid." This species has small flowers that are light greenish brown with white lips touched with purple.
   Encyclia brassavolae is a species that can be found naturally in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Mexico. It likes the damp evergreen forest and cool temperatures. The pretty brown and white flowers are very striking with the touch of lavender on the tip of the flower lip. This orchid has tall pseudobulbs and flowers in late summer and fall.
   Another easy grower, and when it flowers you will really enjoy the sweet scent of vanilla, is Encyclia radiata. Found naturally from Mexico to Venezuela, it is a warm to cool grower. It prefers to be mounted or in a wire basket. It blooms many times during the year producing small candy-striped flowers are waxy in texture and grow upside down like many other Encyclias.
   I am using the horticultural accepted names in my article, which may be different than the official, taxonomic names. You may find E. mariae and citrina in the Euchyles now and E. cochleata in the Prostechea alliance, (the last time I looked).
   With all of the study and moving of orchids now, it is nearly impossible to keep up with it all. In the time it took to write this article E. cochleatum has gone from Epidendrum to Encyclia, then to Anacheilum and last at this time to Prostechea. Keep a large eraser in your greenhouse if you expect to keep up with all of the changes.