Orchids: Brassavola nodosa – Lady of the Night

The genus Brassavola comprises only about 15 species alltold. Their range of distribution extends from the Antilles through Central America to southern Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. The pseudo-bulbs are generally not thickened and resemble stems. The leaves, usually one to a bulb, are long, very narrow, thick and leathery. Only in Brassavola digbyana and B. glauca are they wide — reminiscent of the leaves of the genus Laelia.

The flowers are very attractive and large with a striking widened lip, which is sometimes a fantastic shape, for example in B. digbyana it has a long delicate fringe on the margin. The other segments are narrower and either white, the same as the lip or, more frequently, with a yellow or green tinge.

Few orchids are so suitable for indoor cultivation as brassavolas. They find the conditions of modern centrally-heated homes fully to their liking, besides which they also tolerate a dry atmosphere. The species and many others do not have a marked period of winter rest and so all that is necessary is to slightly limit watering in the autumn when temperatures usually tend to be lower for a few weeks before the heating system is put into operation.

Brassavola nodosa has a vast range of distribution, extending from Mexico through Venezuela to Peru. It mainly inhabits epiphytic situations, growing on the trunks and branches of trees, on large columnar cacti, on the roots of mangroves, as well as on cliffs. It is usually found at elevations of more than 600 m (1,920 ft). The leaves are up to 9 cm (3Va in) across and very fragrant.

Brassavolas may be grown indoors either freely in a room or in a plant case, but they must always be provided with abundant light (they may even be exposed to direct sunlight). The compost may be quite simple — a ball of moss attached to a branch is sufficient.

This genus may be successfully crossed with other members of the subtribe Laeliinae, for example with Cattleya, Laelia or Epidendrum; most such hybrids are likewise excellent for indoor cultivation.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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