Orchids: Epidendrum falcatum

Epidendrum, which includes some 800 species distri-buted from Florida to southern South America, is another large genus of orchids very well suited to room decoration.

Epidendrum falcatum is one of the numerous species found in Central America from Mexico to Panama, where it grows either as an epiphyte or on the ground in mountains up to elevations of 2,000 m (6,600 ft). It has a pendulous habit, the leaves trailing freely downwards over the branches and trunks of trees. The pseudo-bulbs are greatly modified, only about 3 cm (1-¼ in) long and single-leaved. The leaves are leathery, dark green, linear, and about 30 cm (1 ft) long. The flowers, 8 to 12 cm (3 to 4-¾ in) across, are borne in summer on short scapes that are also pendent.

Since this species is a plant of higher elevations, it requires a moderate temperature rather than too much heat and in winter a more pronounced period of rest with a slightly lower temperature and greatly limited watering. There is no need to have any fears about growing it indoors — all it needs is to be put in the coolest room of the home for the winter. It can be relied on to produce good growth and flowers.

Cultivation is the same for other lovely epidendrums. Recommended for the beginner, for example, are E. ciliare, one of the most elegant members of the entire genus with a white-fringed lip; E. nemorale with pink, fragrant flowers up to 10 cm (4 in) in diameter, and E. mariae with 8-cm-(3-in-) long flowers coloured white and greenish yellow. Species that do well in homes which are always warm are E. cochleatum, with upward-facing flowers (turned through 180°); and E. atropurpureum. The beautiful and popular E. vitellinum, with orange-red flowers, requires permanently cool and moist conditions, for in its native habitat (southern Mexico and Guatemala) it grows high up in the mountains at elevations of 2,000 to 2,700 m (6,600 to 8,840 ft).

All epidendrums may be grown readily as epiphytes attached to a branch together with a handful of light compost. They are propagated either by detaching the young plants that many species produce at the base of the pseudo-bulb, or by dividing older clumps.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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