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Excerpts from

VOLUME 80, NO. 4—October, November, December 2016


Who Is Crystelle?
1 page, 3 photos

A variety of Cymbidium goeringii with “sunrise” variegation

The American Orchid Society’s judging system is the recognized benchmark for quality in the orchid world. One woman’s name, Crystelle, is attached to more award quality orchids than any other....


The State of Affairs in Breeding Catasetinae
Fred Clarke
60 pages, 256 photos, 8 charts

Rhynchostele ehrenbergii
Ctsm. Melana Davison ‘Bomb Shell’
©Fred Clarke


Cycd. Chiriqui ‘Sunset Valley Orchids’ FCC/AOS
©Fred Clarke

The subtribe Catasetinae is a fascinating group of orchids. For years, they have been considered “botanical oddities” mainly grown by expert hobbyists. But that situation is changing. New developments in breeding, improved plant availability, and a clear understanding of their cultural requirements have fueled new interest among all levels of hobbyists from around the world. If you are just getting interested in Catasetinae, you will be surprised by how easy they are to grow and amazed by the spectacular flowers. If you have been growing these delightful and rewarding orchids, you already understand.

Some of the most unusual and intriguing types of orchids are found in the Catasetinae, a group that includes a number of familiar genera including Catasetum, Clowesia, Cycnoches, and Mormodes. Aside from the amazing variety of flowers and fragrances, these orchids all have a distinct winter dormancy and an active summer growth phase. Few orchid plants go through so many rapid seasonal changes. Once you understand their cultural requirements, this distinct growth cycle makes these plants fun to grow and flower.


Species Number











Catasetinae flowers are especially intriguing. Like most orchids, both genera Mormodes and Clowesia have perfect flowers with both male and female reproductive structures. However, the genera Catasetum and Cycnoches can flower with male or female flowers that sometimes look quite different from one another. As you might imagine, this difference—termed “sexual dimorphism”—led to much confusion when these species were first discovered and described in the late 19th century! In the Catasetinae, male flowers are generally showier, with female flowers more modest in appearance. Another aspect of the dimorphism, particularly in catasetums, is the male flowers’ ability to “shoot” their pollinia in response to physical contact! These flowering habits and unusual floral traits of the Catasetinae are unique and truly place these among the most desirable plants for orchid enthusiasts to grow and flower...

Best Practices in Culture of Catasetum, Clowesia, Cycnoches, Mormodes and Their Hybrids
Phyllis S. Prestia
5 pages, 5 photos
Phal. pulcherrima blooms.
The root length of this plant
indicates that it is not ready to be watered.
©Phyllis Prestia

Some years ago, I received my first Catasetinae seedling, Fredclarkeara After Dark ‘Black Pearl’ from an opportunity table supplied by Fred Clarke of Sunset Valley Orchids in Vista, CA. I was at once excited at the prospects of growing such a curious and beautiful orchid and terrified at potentially killing what surely was a valuable one. I didn’t have a greenhouse at that time and had no knowledge about the plant’s cultural requirements.

So I consulted the experts, a few friends who grew Catasetinae (some well, some not so well) and read what I could find about culture. As with any orchid, a thorough understanding of the natural habitat and seasonal conditions is the key to trying to replicate as closely as possible what exists in an ex situ growing area. Now many years later, I am growing and blooming a burgeoning collection of colorful, gorgeous Catasetinae. This article is the culmination of what I’ve learned to date...

Brazil: A Country Filled with Catasetums
U. L. C. Ferreira
4 pages, 13 photo

Ctsm. mattosianum: Brazil
©U. L. C. Ferreira

Catasetum is an orchid genus comprised of approximately 176 species and 20 natural hybrids. This is a genus that is fascinating for the orchidist because its constituent species have many variations in both the shape and color of its flowers. The genus was described by C. S. Kunth in 1822 with Catasetum (Ctsm.) macrocarpum as the type species. Since then, many species’ descriptions have been published. It is time for the genus to be revised. It is probable that the current list of species contains many synonyms as well as some natural hybrids, but it will take genetic studies to sort out all of the various problems.

Catasetum is widespread in the Americas but Brazil holds the greatest concentration of species with 131 of the 194 listed in the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. However, this number could be even higher. Brazil comprises a great area which borders on a number of other countries that also have Catasetum species. The countries that have catasetums and border Brazil include French Guiana, Guyana, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia. Some of the species which were originally described for other countries, such as the Ctsm. kempfii Dodson & R. Vásquez found mainly in Bolivia and Ctsm. schunkei Dodson & D. E. Benn that was considered a native of Peru and Bolivia, have both since been reported in Brazil. Additional species discoveries are also possible because there is now greater interest in researching this genus. The opening of new roads to facilitate traffic expands opportunities for more efficient exploration into new habitats. There is also the natural expansion of species into areas that have the correct climate, vegetation, and hydrology which appears to be happening in northern Brazil...


Catasetums of Latin America
Compiled by Sandra Svoboda
10 pages, 50 photos

E. helleborine
Ctsm. moorei ‘Munjeet’ CBR/AOS
©Judith Higham

A list of the Catasetums of Latin America, and their native locations.