The Genus Encyclia–Part 5, hybrids

(Start at The Genus Encyclia–Part 1)

To close out this series on Encyclia orchids, we should probably consider hybrids. Broadly speaking, Encylia species are genetically compatible with each other and with other members of the subtribe Laeliinae. Natural hybrids among Encyclia species do occur, particularly in the Caribbean, but as far as I am aware, intergeneric hybrids are purely a phenomenon of cultivation. When crossed together, Encyclia species produce hybrids that are, as one might expect, not dissimilar to the original species. The hybridization merely extends the color variation of the genus somewhat and, perhaps, introduces some hybrid vigor. When crossed to other genera in the Laeliinae, Encyclia contributes genes for compact growth and long inflorescences with multiple, relatively small flowers. Other genera such as Cattleya or Guarianthe extend the color palette and shorten the inflorescence. The intergeneric hybrids are often excellent plants for growing on sunny windowsills.

Encyclia Gail Nakagaki

E. Gail Nakagaki


Encyclia Gail Nakagaki (see also photo 4 here) is an excellent example of a primary hybrid between two species. The form and color of the flower is intermediate between its parents, E. alata and E. cordigera, while the fragrance is strongly influenced by E. cordigera.

Encyclia (chiapasensis x bracteata)

E. (chiapasensis x bracteata)

This interesting miniature hybrid was bred by North Carolina orchid grower John Martin, and he very generously gave me a seedling about ten years ago. E. bracteata is a miniature species, while E. chiapasensis is noted for its successive blooming pattern. The hybrid is a dwarf, suited to growing on a windowsill or under lights, which has inherited the successive blooming habit from its larger parent. Instead of producing all of its flowers at one time, each inflorescence produces a few flowers at a time over a long period. A mature plant can be in flower for much of the year, a feature which is obviously appealing to windowsill orchid growers. I am surprised that E. chiapasensis has not been used more by commercial orchid breeders.

Catyclia Cinnamatica

Catyl. Cinnamatica

This hybrid of Encyclia incumbens crossed with Cattleya (formerly Laelia) cinnabarina is a good example of what happens when the non-Encyclia parent is one of the brightly colored, small-flowered Cattleya species in subgenus parviflorae. The plant resembles an Encyclia with elongated pseudobulbs, but the burnt-orange color is not in the natural palette of Encyclia. Because the other parent is one of the lithophytic species formerly called rupiculous laelias, this hybrid wants bright light and excellent drainage.

Enanthleya Middleburg ‘MAJ’ AM/AOS

Eny. Middleburg ‘MAJ’ AM/AOS

Enanthlaya is an artificial genus generated by hybridizing Encyclia, Cattleya, and Guarianthe plants. Enanthleya Middleburg is (Cattleya guttata x Guarianthe bowringiana) x Encyclia phoenicea, and this awarded plant was good enough quality to mericlone and mass market. The beautiful purple color and heavy waxy texture come from both sides of the cross, but the chocolate fragrance is all E. phoenicea.

Enanthleya Joseph Romans x Encyclia cordigera

Eny. Joseph Romans x E. cordigera

This cross was less successful than the previous. While E. phonicea produced nicely proportioned flowers in Eny. Middleburg, the larger lip of E. cordigera has produced ungainly flowers which are crowded together on the short inflorescence influenced by the Enanthleya parent. Perhaps that’s why the cross has not been registered.

Enanthleya Bob Gasko

Eny. Bob Gasko

Not every Enanthleya is purple. The bright orange color of Eny. Bob Gasko comes from rupiculous laelias and Guarianthe aurantiaca. The cross is (Encyclia incumbens x Guarianthe aurantiaca) x (Cattleya neokautskyi x Cattleya harpophylla), so the genetic influence of Encyclia is somewhat attenuated compared to Eny. Middleburg or Eny. Joseph Romans x E. cordigera. Nevertheless, Encyclia is still clearly visible in the compact growth habit and long, beautiful inflorescence. Unfortunately, this hybrid does not have any fragrance that I can detect.

So, that wraps up my brief survey of Encyclia orchids and their cultivation. Hopefully it has given you some idea of why Encyclia is my favorite orchid genus and, perhaps, whetted your appetite for growing one (or a few, or a greenhouse full).

The Genus Encyclia–Part 4, South American Species

(Start at The Genus Encyclia–Part 1)

The range of Encyclia extends throughout South America, from Colombia south to Argentina. As might be expected, given the size of the area, there are more South American Encyclia species than Central American and Caribbean species combined. The greatest diversity of Encyclia in South America is found in Brazil, particularly in the area of the Brazilian shield, the ancient geologically stable region south and east of the Amazon Basin. Given the diversity of closely related species from this region, I have been unable to positively identify a number of the Brazilian species that I have grown. As with the other posts in this series, the species illustrated here represent only a tiny proportion of the diversity in nature, but they include the plants most likely to be seen in cultivation.

Encyclia profusa

E. profusa

This species is from Colombia. It isn’t colorful, but a well grown plant produces a cloud of flowers that impress by their sheer numbers.

Encyclia randii

E. randii

Encyclia randii is definitely one of the most beautiful Encyclia species, and it also has one of the largest flowers in the genus, competing in size with E. cordigera. Orchid growers sometimes confuse E. randii with the white-lipped form of E. cordigera, but vegetatively the two species look quite different. E. randii has almost spherical pseudobulbs and narrow, rigid foliage, while E. cordigera has egg-shaped pseudobulbs and broader, strap-like leaves. E. randii grows as a lowland species in the Amazon rain forest, and consequently is much less drought tolerant than many Encyclia species. Compared to Caribbean and Central American species, E. randii should be given a little more shade and considerably more water. The mix should still be open and airy, though. Do not allow the plant to sit in saturated potting media for long periods or the roots will rot.

Encyclia dichroma

E. dichroma

This beautiful species grows on rocky outcrops under arid conditions in Bahia state. Consequently, it should be given much brighter, drier growing conditions than the previous species. I have had success growing the plants in terracotta pots with pure scoria (red lava rock) or aliflor. Treat it more-or-less like a cactus or succulent, and you won’t go too far wrong. The species name presumably refers to the two-shades of purple on the flowers.

Encyclia fowliei

E. fowliei

This is probably my favorite of the Brazilian species, and luckily it has proven to be resistant to boisduval scale. It is a fairly small species, but the flowers are large for the size of the plant. The reticulated pattern on the sepals and petals is unique.

Encyclia gallopavina

E. gallopavina

This miniature species is quite similar to E. fowliei vegetatively, and the two species may be closely related. Sadly, it did not share the resistance to boisduval scale, and despite spraying I eventually lost my plant.

Encyclia species

unidentified Encyclia species

This plant is a mystery. It was originally sold by a nursery in Hawaii as “E. fowliei” but it is clearly not that species or anything like it. I suspect it might be Encyclia patens, but I am far from certain.

Encyclia advena

E. advena

The nomenclature of this large and beautiful Brazilian species is somewhat confused in the literature, with E. megalantha and E. osmantha variously treated as separate species or synonyms. I’m going to stick with the name that came attached to this plant.

Encyclia osmantha? E. alboxanthina?

E. osmantha?

See above re: nomenclatural confusion. This plant came labeled as Encyclia osmantha, but the flowers don’t look much like the E. osmantha illustrated by Withner (2000)–in particular, it lacks the scalloped edges to the labellum side lobes. In fact, the flowers look a lot more like E. alboxanthina illustrated by Fowlie and Duveen (1992) and Campacchi (2003), and the foliage is also consistent with that species. It has a very xerophytic appearance, with rigid leaves that lack an abscission layer and remain stuck to the pseudobulbs after they have dried out. This plant has resisted boisduval scale.

Encyclia alboxanthina?

E. alboxanthina?

This plant came labeled as E. alboxanthina, but its petals and labellum look quite different from the previous plant. So, yeah, I give up.

References and further reading

Campacci, MA (2003) EncycliaColetânea de Orquídeas Brasileiras 1: 1−32.

Fowlie, JA and Duveen, D (1992) A contribution to an understanding of the genus Encyclia as it occurs in the Brazilian Shield and its river tributaries. Orchid Digest 56: 171-206.

Withner, CL (2000). The Cattleyas and their Relatives: Volume VI. The South American Encyclia species. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

Up next: a few hybrids

Six on Saturday #69 (February 12, 2022)

Winter foliage of Scilla peruviana eaten to the ground by an eastern cottontail.

I’m taking a break from the Encyclia series for a quick Six on Saturday post. The North Carolina Random Winter Weather Generator has given us sun with a predicted high of 71 F (21.7 C) for today. But don’t worry, a mix of cold rain and snow is forecast for tomorrow.

January has been quite cold, so there isn’t much going on in the outdoor garden yet apart a few Cyclamen and Helleborus flowers. A quick walk around revealed that a rabbit has squeezed under the fence and is mowing down all the fresh young foliage of spring bulbs that aren’t completely toxic. Unfortunately (for the rabbit), I haven’t had much luck with box traps, so if I can’t locate the hole and block it when the rabbit is outside the fence, the solution to the problem may involve firearms…

Moving on…since most of the blooming action is still in the greenhouse, that’s where we’ll be for this week’s Six:

1. Calanthe hybrid

An unlabeled tropical Calanthe hybrid

The very first cultivated orchid hybrid, registered in 1858, was Calanthe Dominii, a cross of two tropical Calanthe species. More recently, this type of Calanthe seems to have gone out of fashion, and plants are surprisingly hard to find. I bought this plant out-of-bloom when the Orchid Trail Nursery was shutting down, so I am quite pleased to see it has very dark, wine-red flowers. I have previously featured some of the hardy Calanthe species and hybrids which have underground pseudobulbs and are more-or-less evergreen, but the tropical varieties like this one have large above-ground pseudobulbs and are deciduous, flowering when leafless at the end of a completely dry winter dormancy.

2. Columnea microcalyx (syn. C. gloriosa)

Columnea microcalyx flowers are starting to droop and fade, but new buds are still growing on new stems higher up.

The Columnea plant that I illustrated on December 21 is still flowering and probably will continue for at least a few more weeks. Of the various Columnea species and hybrids that I have tried growing, this is definitely the most vigorous and the most tolerant of summer heat.

3. Sinningia macrostachya

Sinningia macrostachya

Another of the Brazilian Sinningia species, this one grown from a cutting rather than seed. It has bright flowers at the beginning of the growing period, neat and tidy foliage, and a large tuber growing at the soil surface. What’s not to like? Grow it like a tropical succulent: full sun, warm temperatures, and a dry winter dormancy.

4. Dendrobium antennatum (green antelope orchid)


Dendrobium antennatum is from sea level in New Guinea, so it wants constantly warm growing conditions. When happy, it rewards the grower with interesting flowers that are long-lasting (>6 weeks) and have a honey-like fragrance. When I started growing orchids almost 30 years ago, this was one of the first species I tried. It thrived under lights in the living room of my apartment and flowered year-round, but eventually I gave it away when it grew too large. This more recent purchase isn’t doing quite so well in a cooler greenhouse, but it still flowers for most of the year. The plant (not shown here) has lime-green foliage on 1-2′ tall cane-like pseudobulbs. The inflorescences grow horizontally from leaf axils near the top of previous years’ pseudobulbs.

5. Paphiopedilum (Lippewunder x Acclamation)


Paphiopedilum hybrids of this type are called “bulldogs”, because the most famous is Paphiopedilum Winston Churchill, or “toads”, because they are often ugly. This one isn’t too bad looking in my opinion, but it lacks the very broad petals that usually give bulldog flowers the saucer-like appearance beloved of orchid judges.

6. Sphyrospermum buxifolium


S. buxifolium is one of neotropical epiphytic “blueberries”. It’s flowers aren’t as spectacular as some of its relatives (see here and photo #4 here), but the reddish new leaves have their own understated beauty.

The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday. Head over there to see his Six for this week and find links to the blogs of other participants.