What is Catasetum?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 February 2019
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Catasetum is a genus belonging to the Orchid family, with the abbreviation ctsm commonly used in the horticultural trade to describe these plants. There are 166 species identified, but hybrids are also widespread because of cross-pollination between species of Catasetum and other related orchid species. The majority of these flowers are natives of Brazil. Some species can be found in the tropical areas of America and Mexico, particularly in the Amazonic expanse.

This type of orchid has both female and male flowers that are generally fattened, fleshy, and short-lived. The classification of the plants belonging to this genus has caused considerable confusion because of the significant distinction between the two sexes of the flowers belonging to a similar species. Typically, female flowers are yellowish green while the males are more colorful. The conditions under which the plant grows largely determine the sex of the flowers produced. In rare cases, a single plant may bear both male and female flowers under transitional conditions.

Like most types of plants, insects serve as the medium by which pollens are transferred from the male to the female flowers. A distinguishing feature of the male plants belonging to Catasetum is their ability to eject sticky pollens onto an unsuspecting insect that happens to touch them. The waxy male flowers are often observed to release pollinia to pollinators like bees.


Catasetum plants thrive in a medium that provides good drainage, like wood slat baskets and orchid pots. The use of sphagmum moss is common among local growers because of its superior ability to hold water and fertilizers. As the plants grow, they may require heavier watering in order to satisfy their needs, especially during the warmer and longer days of summer. The heavy growth will increase the potential to produce more flowers during the season of fall.

These plants grow effectively in bright sunlight. Higher quality blooms are observed when produced in near full sun conditions. As the flowering cycle approaches completion, less light will be required while the plant loses foliage. It is a common observation that most Catasetum plants drop leaves as they enter the dormant stage.

An infestation of spider mites may damage the plants belonging to this genus. If the soft and thin leaves show any symptoms, the pest can be eliminated using a recommended dilution of miticide. Any affected area that starts to rot should be immediately cut away and the cut surface treated with Banrot paste, Dithane M45, or Captan. Aeration is also a significant factor in preventing the plant’s bulbs from rotting.



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