The genus Odontoglossum contains approximately 100 species of orchids and belongs to the subtribe Oncidiinae. These orchids typically grow in cool to cold climates and are usually epiphytes, which are plants that grow on other plants. This genus once contained more than 400 species, but many have been reclassified to other genera.
As of 2010, the species of Odontoglossum are fast becoming popular ornamental plants due to their long-lasting flowers and ease of growth. The various species require anywhere from subdued light to full sun. Very dark green leaves indicate the plant is not getting enough sun, while red-green leaves indicate far too much sun. The plants enjoy very moist air, but cannot thrive in extremely wet conditions. Repotting the plant every two years is recommended after removing any dead shoots.
One species, Odontoglossum crispum, has the most variant flower color and size of the genus. Like many of the other species, Odontoglossum crispum are epiphytes. These plants thrive in partial shade and can also deal with full sun. The flowers of these plants tend to be white and pink, but they can also have different brownish blotches on them. When cultivating, it is important to protect these plants from excessive direct sunlight and to make sure that they are in an area with sufficient air circulation.
A commonly cultivated species is Odontoglossum hallii, a varied species with distinguishing clawed sepals and petals. In the wild, this plant usually grows in very elevated areas of New Grenada and Peru. It often has many flowers and dark green leaves that are 1 foot (0.3 m) long. Though the flowers can be a variety of colors, they are commonly yellow speckled with brown splotches.
Numerous ailments can affect the species of this genus, such as fungus and pests. Black rot can destroy the plant if the area experiences frequent rainfall or if a gardener waters too often. Grasshoppers, roaches, and mites may feed off the plant and live in its soil. In some cases, a problem is not apparent until the plant begins to show obvious signs of damage or starts to die.
The genus was named in the early 1800s by Carl Sigismund Kunth, one of the first people to study and categorize plants in North America. Odontoglossum used to contain more than 400 species, but further research and discoveries have trimmed that number considerably. Today, the genus has many natural hybrids and intergenetic artificial hybrids. The artificial hybrids are often primarily prized for the unique speckled coloring of their showy petals.