Psychopsis: The Butterfly Orchids

Psychopsis, abbreviated Psychp in horticultural trade, is a genus of only four species of orchids distributed from the West Indies and Costa Rica to Peru, where it grows on the trunks and branches of trees.

These orchids are particularly mysterious and are called butterfly orchidsThe flower moves in the wind, and mimics a female butterfly which attracts male butterflies to try and mate with it, thus pollinating the flower. It also might have a second trick.  The butterfly-like flower might attract a parasitic insect on the lookout for butterflies, or it fools a male butterfly into thinking it’s a female.

There’s even a fun word for it: pseudocopulation. Either way, the orchid succeeds in getting its seeds distributed to continue the life cycle. We got to see a hybrid butterfly orchid.

Psychopsis papilio (Lindley, 1825) H. G. Jones. 1975 Psychopsis mariposa, right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally described by John Lindley as Oncidium papilio, it was removed to the genus Psychopsis by H. G. Jones (1975) in the Journal of the Barbados Museum Historical Society (p. 32). Caution: it’s still marketed occasionally under the old name by some vendors, and under both names by less scrupulous ones!

Psychopsis papilio(Ldl..) Jones. Photo: DSC_7781 04 May, 2006.

This species is a native of low-mountain forests in Trinidad, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. It resembles certain species of South American butterflies so well that males attempt to mate with it, and in doing so, pollinate it. P. papilio (Fig. 11) puts out a long rachis. This particular plant’s flower was held on one about 7.5 decimeters (about 30 inches) long, putting it well above the plant’s leaves where it may flutter lightly in a breeze and aide its butterfly mimicry. Another aid to butterfly mimicry is that flowers bloom successively; not a few at the same time.

Psychopsis papilio is often confused with P. kramerianum (see below) which is from Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru, but P. papilio has a bilaterally compressed peduncle lacking swollen nodes (P. kramerianum: peduncle terete), and the wings on the columns of each species are shaped differently.

 

Kramer’s Psychopsis [German Orchid Gardner 1800’s]  (Image at top of article)psychkrameriana

Flower Size to 5″ [to 12.5 cm]

Found from Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru in tropical lowland and lower montane rainforests on large branches at altitudes of 50 to 1300 meters as a medium sized, hot to warm growing epiphyte with small dollar shaped, laterally compressed psuedobulbs subtended by imbricate bracts with spotted undersides of the single, apical, rigid, leathery, persistent, elliptic-oblong, acute, contracted into a short, folded petiole leaf that blooms on a 3′ [90 cm] long, erect, 1 to 2 flowered at a time, successive opening inflorescence with ovate-triangular bracts and large showy flowers. These inflorescence, if left alone can bloom for years so do not cut them as they also can produce plantlets.

AOS Book Review: The Orchid Whisperer

Book Review:
The Orchid Whisperer

By Bruce Rogers. 2012. Chronicle Books, San Francisco. Softcover. 143 pages. 75 color photographs.

The Orchid Whisperer is an eminently intelligent and attractive book for beginning orchid growers. While not actually advocating muttering at plants (at least not as an active growing tool), it presents plenty of easy-to-understand advice to get novice growers on the road to success. At the same time, author Bruce Rogers, a longtime commercial orchid man, makes it all so readable. Unlike some other “beginner”advice books, Rogers’ language is engaging and humorous, and strikes the right balance between being easy to read and needing a science degree to understand.

Rogers departs from the frequent novice- formula of analyzing conditions and buying plants to match those conditions. Instead, he suggests new growers buy what they like and then look for places inside their homes hospitable to the plants. His topics include practical advice on buying and selecting plants, mixes and repotting, light and temperature, watering and pests. In addition to the usual recommendations about beginning with phalaenopsis and cattleyas, he provides details on other genera such as miltoniopsis and reed-stem epidendrums. Rogers is unabashedly organic, offering green solutions to common pests like mealybugs, aphids and spider mites. He is also unabashedly optimistic, assuring his readers that their orchids can be kept blooming “no matter your experience level, budget, or locations.”

Then there’s Rogers’ humor:
“My advice is to learn how to repot cymbidiums, then find a job that pays well enough that you can hire someone to repot your cymbidiums.”

Graphically, the color photographs by Greg Allikas are excellent and the occasional checklist of tips practical and well organized. Rogers even adds a chapter on decorating with orchids, which is interesting enough to challenge even experienced growers to new levels of creativity. One more chart summarizing the light, water and temperature requirements of the included species might have been beneficial, but that’s available from other sources. The Orchid Whisperer is one to put on the holiday list for novice orchidists, or for those who may cuss while repotting.

— Sue Volek has been growing orchids as a hobby for more than 15 years, in San Diego, Washington, DC, and now Portland. She is on the board of the Oregon Orchid Society, an AOS affiliate, and has been an AOS member for more than 15 years.

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Orchid “Apps” Now Available for the iPhone

Applications for smart phones, or “apps” as they are most often referred to, are changing the way we interact with our world on a daily basis.   Now there are Orchid “apps” for smart phones for Orchid lovers and/or growers which can help you keep track of all the orchids in your collections.

One increasingly popular “app” for the iPhone is the Orchid Notebook.  It helps you keep records on your orchids, their names, their appearance, and it offers helpful hints and tricks on how to grow them.  Orchid Notebook is easy to use.  Just type in the name or number of the Orchid, take a picture with your phone and the entire orchid collection appears on your phone.

Adding, deleting and updating your plants is easy. Orchid Notebook shows a running total of the plants in your collection for a quick reference.  This is particularly helpful when shopping for Orchids at shows and nurseries.

Key Features:
* Learn basic information about orchids
* Discover how to care for orchids
* Read about propagation techniques
* Enter information about the orchids in your collection into the database
* Enter photos of your orchids in your collection
* Build a wish list of the orchids you want to buy
* Export your collection and wish list information via a comma separated value (csv) file allowing the user to import the information into a spreadsheet
* Save a backup of your orchid collection datafile and share it with your other devices (iPhone/iPad)

Collection fields (in the Orchid Database):
* Genus name
* Species name
* Grex name
* Orchid Information – awards, flower color, fragrance, fragrance description, size of plant, size of flower
* Orchid Purchase Information – price, date, source
* Have or Want – the orchids you want are color coded in red
* Growing Conditions – temperature, lighting, water quantity, location
* Orchid details – Mounted, potted, size of pot, month last bloomed, date of last spike,date repotted
* Orchid notes
* Photos of orchid – allows up to 3 photos of each orchid entry

The app offers fairly accurate culture information for the most popular Orchid types including Cattleya, Dendrobium, Oncidium, Paphiopedilum, and Phalaenopsis.    The Orchid Notebook also offers information for uncommon types of orchids such as Brassavola, Encyclia, Phragmepedium, and Vanilla.   The Orchid Notebook includes sample pictures that are most helpful.  It does not yet contain information about Cymbidium, Miltonia, or Vanda.

It is not a perfect app by any means, but it is a step in the right direction.  No doubt, future versions of Orchid Notebook and other Orchid apps will follow that hopefully will be more full featured that this one.    One noted problem with this app, is that important botanical terms such as ‘species’, ‘hybrid’, and ‘variety’ are used interchangeably, even though their meanings are entirely different.  We hope that if enough Orchid Hobbyists comment on this app the authors will get the message and consult real orchid experts to help work out all the bugs of this program.

In the near future, as new orchid applications hit the market, hobbyists will have many more options available to enhance their orchid growing experience. The ‘free’ version of Orchid Notebook allows for five entries of an orchid collection and is just to allow you to try the app before you buy.  The full version of Orchid Notebook is only $2.99.   It is a shame that it is not yet available for the Android world, but if you have an iPhone this is still a good choice for the casual grower or someone just getting into orchids.

Pam Aitchison

Zygopetalum crinitum

Our featured orchid for August is the Zygopetalum crinitum.   It’s common name is “The Hairy Zygopetalum”.

These beautiful orchids are found at elevations of 600 to 1200 meters in the cool and moist mountain ranges of South America.  Most of them are found in Brazil in the mountains near Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo.    They generally bloom from October through December and they produce a tall flower stalk which usually has eight to ten 9 cm flowers on it.    The flowers are fragrant, waxy and very long-lived.  The flowers are generally yellow-green with purple-brown streaks.  The flowers are also prized in cut-flower arrangements.

They have a reputation of being easy to grow for the home orchid enthusiast.  They like to be evenly moist at all times.  Do not let the potting media dry out completely.  They require medium to bright light, and when the light green leaves show some yellowing you can be assured that maximum light is being absorbed.  They require a medium to fine bark with some perlite added for moisture retention.

My Zygopetalum crinitum is in full bloom right now, so it must be confused about what time of year it is.  I got mine at the Santa Barbara Orchid Estate in 2008, and it has been reliably blooming every year since then.   Give this one a try.  You will be very happy you did.