Stanhopea tigrina: Horned Orchid

Comparison of the structure of the flower of the species with that of Gongora armeniaca will reveal marked similarities and the two orchids are duly assigned to the same subtribe — Gon-gorinae. The structure of the flower, particularly the lip, is very complex. The lip is fleshy and composed, as a rule, of a spindle or pouch-like hypochil, a mesochil with two horn-like outgrowths, and an epichil that is generally shortly-elliptical and often three-toothed at the tip.

The lip is also the principal identifying character of about fifty relatively quite similar species, even though of widely diverse and variable coloration. It is extremely difficult to tell them apart when they are not in flower. All species have ovate pseudo-bulbs from which grows a single leathery leaf with pronounced veins.

Stanhopeas are epiphytes with flowers that grow through the compost and hang down below the plant. For this reason they cannot be grown in pots but only in epiphytic arrangements or hanging baskets with a bottom of wide-spaced slats or large-mesh wire netting.

The species is the best-known in Europe and also the most widely cultivated, generally under the wrong name of S. hernandezi. Because it is a cold-loving plant it should be overwintered in a well-ventilated but rather cool room; in summer it does well in the garden, for example hung in the shade of a tree. It is definitely worth the trouble for the flowers — up to 18 cm (7 in) in diameter, are not only beautifully coloured but also extremely fragrant (a scent described as a mixture of melons and vanilla). This species is native to Mexico; the genus is distributed from Central America to Peru.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Stanhopea tigrina: Horned Orchid

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