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What is Brassavola?

Alex Tree
Alex Tree

Brassavola is a genus of orchids from the Orchidaceae family, subtribe Laeliinae. The majority of species in this genus are epiphytes, meaning they are plants that dwell on other plants, while a few are lithophytes, which are plants that grow on or in rocks. They are generally grown as ornamental plants; however, wild Brassavola can be seen in tropical forests of Central and South America. There are more than 20 noted species of these perennials, which are divided into four sections. Native Brassavola orchids have ivory-colored flowers that can grow either singularly or in small clusters.

Three to four thin small modified leaves, or sepals, and two lateral petals surround the largest petal of these flowers, which has a bright yellow or yellow-green center. An thick, elongated blade of leaf is connected to a succulent pseudobulb, which is the part of the plant where food is stored and synthesized. A citrusy scent is emitted by these orchids at night to attract pollinators such as moths, bees, and small birds. Blossoms can last for a month, but some species have flowers that wither after about five days.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Cucullata is the only species under B. section Brassavola. The central petal is trumpet-shaped with three sepals and two thinner petals that are white with a tinge of yellow-green. This is also the most commonly grown garden variety, especially in Mexico. A common name for this species is daddy long legs, which is reflective of the orchid’s lean and long appearance. As epiphytes, cucullata flourish on tree trunks or pieces of driftwood in orchid gardens.

The Sessilabia section has a distinctive narrow central petal with fringed borders. Thirteen species of Brassavola belong to this category, all of which can be found in Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. Laeliinae, or cattleya orchids, are frequently used to hybridize members of this section. Flagellaris, for example, is a hybridized lithophyte species. This orchid also has three sepals and two lateral petals that encase a focal mouth-like petal.

A small white central petal serves as the Cuneilabia section’s distinctive feature. One popular garden variety of Brassavola under this section is called the lady of the night. This name is indicative of the fragrant scent these plants release in the early evening to draw in nocturnal pollinators. The six species that belong to this group are mostly grown in Mexico and Jamaica.

Section Lateraliflorae has only two species, which are characterized by flowers that grow side by side. Heart-shaped tubular central petals are observed with these species that come into full bloom from May to July. These plants are lithophytes, and moist foothills in Costa Rica and Guatemala function as these plants’ natural habitat.

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      Woman with a flower