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ORCHID SPECIES CULTURE Charles and Margaret Baker Brassavola nodosa (Linnaeus) Lindley AKA: Epidendrum nodosum Linnaeus. Brassavola venosa Lindley. Brassavola rhopalorrhachis Rchb. f. Brassavola scaposa Schlechter. Withner (1996 P.C.), however, included Brassavola gillettei Jones as a synonym of B. nodosa, but he considered B. venosa Lindley to be a separate species, and both B. rhopalorrhachis and B. scaposa to be synonyms of B. grandiflora Lindley. ORIGIN/HABITAT: Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and Venezuela. This species is widespread in Mexico along the Gulf of Mexico coast southward from Tampico, and plants are also found on the Pacific coast in the state of Chiapas. The habitat continues south through Central America, along both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, and extends into northern Venezuela and Colombia. Collections have also been reported on islands in the West Indies. Plants are found in low lying coastal regions, generally below 1640 ft. (500 m), growing on either trees in lowland tropical forests and mangrove swamps, or on exposed rocks and cliffs near the shore. CLIMATE: Station #76691, Veracruz, Mexico, Lat. 19.1N, Long. 96.2W, elevation 69 ft. (21 m). Record extreme temperatures are 98F (37C) and 53F (12C). N/HEMISPHERE JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC F AVG MAX 77 78 79 83 86 87 87 87 86 85 80 78 F AVG MIN 66 67 68 72 75 75 74 74 74 73 69 67 DIURNAL RANGE 11 11 11 11 11 12 13 13 12 12 11 11 RAIN/INCHES 0.9 0.6 0.3 0.6 2.1 9.6 9.7 11.8 13.6 6.0 3.5 1.0 HUMIDITY/% 81 83 83 81 80 81 81 79 80 77 78 80 BLOOM SEASON * * * * * ** ** ** ** ** ** * DAYS CLR N/A RAIN/MM 23 15 8 15 53 244 246 300 345 152 89 25 C AVG MAX 25.0 25.6 26.1 28.3 30.0 30.6 30.6 30.6 30.0 29.4 26.7 25.6 C AVG MIN 18.9 19.4 20.0 22.2 23.9 23.9 23.3 23.3 23.3 22.8 20.6 19.4 DIURNAL RANGE 6.1 6.2 6.1 6.1 6.1 6.7 7.3 7.3 6.7 6.6 6.1 6.2 S/HEMISPHERE JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN Cultural Recommendations: LIGHT: 2500-3500 fc. Plants may well be able to tolerate higher light levels, if they are introduced gradually. When light is high, high humidity and strong air movement must be provided, and water should be kept off the leaves during the brightest part of the day to prevent burning. TEMPERATURE: Summer days average 87F (31C), and nights average 74-75F (23-24C), with a diurnal range of 12-13F (7C). HUMIDITY: Near 80% year-round. WATER: Heavy through the growing season. However, most regions in the habitat experience a pronounced winter dry season ranging in length from 1 to 6 months, and growers report that cultivated plants must be given at least a 2 week dry period to mature growths and induce flowering. Cultivated plants should be kept moist while actively growing. Watering every 2-3 days during the hottest and brightest time of the year is adequate in most growing areas. FERTILIZER: A balanced fertilizer, mixed at 1/4-1/2 recommended strength, should be applied weekly during periods of active growth. Many growers use a fertilizer with lower nitrogen and higher phosphate in autumn. This improves blooming the next season and encourages new growths to harden before winter. Pots should be leached every few weeks to prevent salt buildup, especially when fertilizer is being applied most heavily. Plants should first be watered normally to dissolve any accumulated salts. An hour or so later, the medium is flushed with water equal to about twice the volume of the pot. Year-round leaching is important in areas with heavily mineralized water. REST PERIOD: Winter days average 77-78F (25-26C), and nights average 66-67F (17C), with a diurnal range of 11F (6C). While rainfall is low during a 4-5 month period in winter in the Veracruz region, the dry season may be as long at 6 months or as short as 1 month at other locations. However, high humidity and nightly cooling results in frequent, heavy deposits of dew, which makes some water available to the plants. Therefore, during this time, water should be reduced but not eliminated for cultivated plants. In most growing areas, these conditions may be provided by occasional early morning misting, with a light watering given once every 2-3 weeks, especially if a period of bright sunny weather is expected. If plants are grown cooler during the winter than the temperatures indicated above, it is very important that water be reduced even more than recommended. Fertilizer should be reduced or eliminated during this time. Light levels should be maintained as high as possible, short of burning the foliage. GROWING MEDIA: Plastic pots are now used by most growers. The heavy water requirements during the growing season demands the use of a very open, fast draining medium such as medium to large fir bark, cork nuggets, or tree-fern fiber. Undersized pots large enough to hold the roots and give room for about two year's growth should be used. Repotting should be done just as new root growth is starting, or as soon after flowering as possible. Plants may be mounted on slabs of cork or tree-fern fiber if high humidity can be maintained, and if water can be applied at least once daily during the summer. MISCELLANEOUS NOTES: Brassavola nodosa is a warm growing species throughout its habitat range, but will adapt to a wide range of conditions in cultivation. Many plants are grown with average winter low temperatures of 58-60F (14-16C). One grower reported that it may be grown even cooler, but it will not bloom if winter lows are colder than 52F (11C). If plants are grown under cool conditions, it is vitally important that they be kept dry. The bloom season shown in the climate table is based on cultivation records. Plant and Flower Information: PLANT SIZE AND TYPE: A clump forming epiphyte or lithophyte that may reach a height of 15-18 in. (38-46 cm), but is often shorter. The connecting rhizome between growths is usually short, and established plants tend to start several new growths. Consequently, specimen plants are easily grown. PSEUDOBULBS: Instead of pseudobulbs, plants have short slender stems up to 6 in. (15 cm) long that are concealed by scarious tubular sheaths. LEAVES: A single leaf is produced on each growth. Leaves are extremely variable in size and shape, ranging from 4 to 12 in. (10-30 cm) long and from 0.1 to 0.7 in. (0.3-1.8 cm) wide. The grey-green leaves are usually erect, very fleshy, grooved on the upper surface, and often appear subterete or semicylindrical. INFLORESCENCE: 1 per growth. The erect inflorescence is about 8 in. (20 cm) long and arise from the leaf axil as the new growth matures. FLOWERS: 1-6 on each inflorescence. The long-lived flowers, which are very fragrant at night, are usually about 3.5 in. (9 cm) across, but may reach nearly 6 in. (15 cm). Sepals and petals are long and slender, do not spread widely, and vary in color from pale green or yellowish to nearly pure white. The large lip is tubular at the base, then opens widely, producing a heart-shaped terminal area that may be as large as 2 in. (5 cm) across. The lip is white and often marked with purple or dark red spotting inside the tube. HYBRIDIZING NOTES: The chromosome count is 2n = 40. When used in hybridizing, Brassavola nodosa produces offspring that frequently bloom more than once a year. They usually grow vigorously, are easy to grow, and tolerate a variety of growing conditions. Hybrids are usually very fragrant. The B. nodosa flower shape is usually dominant, while the color of the offspring is most often determined by the other parent. However, the tendency for spots in the tube of the lip of B. nodosa is usually passed on and magnified in the hybrid progeny, which usually have large spotted lips. The tendency may result in much spotting and other unusual markings on the lip. Many hybridizers consider the best results to be obtained when B. nodosa is used as the pollen parent, but other growers feel that it should be the 'mother plant'. REFERENCES: Ames, O., and D. S. Correll. [1952, 1953, 1965] 1985. Orchids of Guatemala and Belize. Parts 1-3. Fieldiana: Botany 26(1), 26(2), 31(7). Chicago Natural History Museum Press, Chicago. Reprint, Dover Publications, New York. Batchelor, S. R. 1980. The Butterworth Prize for most outstanding specimen plant. American Orchid Society Bulletin 49(8):871. Bechtel, H., P. Cribb, and E. Launert. 1980. Manual of cultivated orchid species. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. Dunsterville, G. C. K., and L. A. Garay. 1959. Venezuelan orchids illustrated, vol. 1. Orchid Herbarium of Oakes Ames, Botanical Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Gann, B. and J. Byrne. 1983. Brassavola nodosa (L.) Ldl. and Encyclia cordigera (HBK) Dressler in the Colombian Sierra Nevada: some cultural notes on two long-time favorites. Orchid Digest 47(3). Gerber, R. and M. 1988. Hybridizing with Brassavola nodosa. American Orchid Society Bulletin 57(5). Hamilton, R. M. 1988. When does it flower? 2nd ed. Robert M. Hamilton, 9211 Beckwith Road, Richmond, B.C., Canada V6X 1V7. Hammer, F. 1984. Orchids of Nicaragua, part 4. Icones Plantarum Tropicarum fascicle 11. The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 811 South Palm Avenue, Sarasota, Fl. 33577. Hawkes, A. D. 1987. Encyclopaedia of cultivated orchids. Faber and Faber, London. Hágsater, E. and G. A. Salazar. 1990. Icones orchidacearum fascicle I, orchids of Mexico. Asociacion Mexicana de Orquideologia A. C., Mexico. Jones, H. G. 1975. Sabo, E. T. 1988. The Alluring Lady of the Night. American Orchid Society Bulletin 57(5). Soule, L. C. 1990. Fragrance in Orchids. American Orchid Society Bulletin 59(7). Withner (1996 P.C.). PHOTOS/DRAWINGS: Copyright 1997, Charles O. Baker and Margaret L. 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