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Vol. 10(10), pp. 10-13The McAllen International Orchid Society JournalOctober 2009

Laelia eyermaniana Rchb.f., Gard. Chron. 1888(2): 91 (1888).

R J Ferry

N. & W. Mexico. 79 MXE MXN MXS Lifeform: Pseudobulb epiphyte
Laelia eyermaniana Rchb. f., Gard. Chron. ser. 3, 4: 91. fig. p. 109. 1888, pro hyb.

Nomen vulgaris

Kiki, Flor de San Miguel


Lay-lee-ah: L. laelia; the name of a vestigal virgin; a Roman woman of culture, e.g. in the context of "madamme," not "madam." Mayr, H. (1998) notes the word origin as "gens Láelia, ancient Roman noble-family; relation not clear," but most likely from the name borne by the females of the patrician Roman family of Laelius.

eyermaniana: eyer-myere ana: L.L. Name Latinization of name in honor of J. Eyerman, of Easton Massachusetts, an American orchidophile at the close of the 19th century.


Family: Orchidaceae Lindley. 1836.
Subfamily: Epidendroideae Lindley
Epidendroid Phylad Dressler
Tribe: Epidendreae (New World)
Subtribe: Laeliinae Bentham
Genus Laelia Lindley


Laelia eyermaniana is known only from Mexico; 1600-2600 meters altitude, from the Mexican states of Nayarit, Michoacán, and Jalisco, Sonora, Chihuahua, Durango, Guanajuato, and Querétaro. Halbinger (1997) cites its conservation status as "not threatened, and surprisingly very seldom collected; distribution patchy; more common northwards; in the densely populated region of El Bajío (the southern part of its range) it can be very scarce."

Botanical Notes

This species was initially described as "pro hyb" by Reichenbach, which was reiterated by Withner (1990, pp. 32, 42, 126). Halbinger (1997, pp. 102-105) cited this as a valid species, although at that time it was not recognized as such by Kew. Williams (1951) noted the description of Reichenbach fil. on p. 192, but listed its range only as "Mexico (state unknown)," and offered the single following remark:

"Thought to be a natural hybrid of Laelia autumnalis and L. speciosa. The inadequate illustration looks not unlike L. autumnalis."

Subsequently, Kew has listed it, and the Kew designation is shown above.

Hawkes (1965) cites the genus Laelia as having "upwards of 75 species," but Dressler (1993) accords it as having "69 (~ Cattleya)," indicating his reservations regarding difference(s) between the two genera. Hamer (1974) accords the genus "about 50 species" and lists it as ranging from Mexico to Panama. Both workers write on the genus Laelia, but are silent on L. eyermaniana.

Withner (1990) reviews the various treatments by prior workers. He offers an outline which appears to combine aspects of prior work as well as a clarified breakdown of the genus (see information, under the genus).

Fig. 1. Pl# 270201-13. Laelia eyermyeriana Rchb. f. Digital photo DSC_3229a Sat-03Oct09.

Hágsater, et al (2005) note common names in Mexico for L. eyermaniana as "Kiki" and "flor de San Miguel," and the distal portion of an inflorescence is shown on page 42 in figure 92. They also note that "the mucilage produced from the pseudobulbs or corms of some orchids when cut, for instance those of Laelia eyermaniana (Fig. 1), Catasetum integerrimum, govenias and bletias, was utilized until a few years ago to make musical instruments.

Populations of L. eyermaniana have been observed by Bussey in Jalisco and elsewhere, and although it is found co-mingled with other species (L. furfuracea, L. autumnalis, and L. speciosa) its entity as a species is maintained. This species, is particularly worth checking with leaf-printing, selfing, sib-crossing, and continued observations in situ.

Growth Cycle and Culture

An epiphyte, L. eyermaniana grows well potted in a Douglas Fir bark substrate. It could be grown on a mount of wood, cork, or tree fern and allowed to ramble freely over the substrate, but the grower would need to give close attention to the plant's watering/fertilizing schedule to accommodate to the plant's. If on cork, it will be almost impossible to over-water it. A wood mounting may retain some of the moisture and allow for less frequent watering while a tree fern mount will tend to retain slightly more moisture than the wood as well as allowing roots to possibly bore into the substrate and be provided with nutrition as the tree fern mount is slowly broken down. If cultivated as a lithophyte, a substrate of porous Cretaceous limestone overlaid with a culture of live Sphagnum moss is suggested. However, if cultivated as a lithophyte, an increase in both the supply and frequency of fresh water will be necessary with particular attention to avoiding excessively dry conditions.

In the natural habitat, the rains wet the plant's substrate and then the plant is allowed to dry out, but in a greenhouse environment, how often one should water is best determined by frequent and close inspection of the roots. At its optimum length, the green root tip on Laelia eyermaniana will be slightly less than a centimeter in length. If one continues to water, the white velamen will overtake the tip so that the green tip length shortens. In other words, the root has enough water so its growth slows. Obviously then, the optimum frequency is to space watering so the green root tips remain at or near their maximum lengths.

Fig. 2. Pl# 270201-13. Laelia eyermyeriana Rchb. f. (pseudobulbs; vegetative basal growths) Digital photo DSC_3239 Thur-08Oct09.

In the natural tropical habitat of Laelia eyermaniana, the day length does not vary drastically. As well, the seasons are more between wet-dry than warm-cold. During the wet season, the plant puts out vegetative growth (Fig. 2). As the drier season comes on, the sugars stored in the pseudobulbs to coalesce and flowering is induced. The pollinator(s) do their work and the seed capsule develops. Once ripened, the capsule dehisces and the seed blows with the winds. Hopefully, now with the beginnings of the wet season the seed will be settled in a niche, moisture provided for a symbiotic fungi to begin its work, and a new orchid plant will sprout. Thus, it is not surprising that Laelia eyermaniana normally begins flowering in late July and continues until early October; a drier time in the annual climatic cycle.

Description from collection records based on living specimen

Vegetative Data

L. eyermaniana is an epiphyte with ovoid, elongated pseudobulbs 5.6 cm long, 2.5 cm wide, with 1-2 leaves to 13.5 cm long, 2.6 cm wide, succulent, acuminate. Halbinger & Soto (1997) note pseudobulbs a centimeter longer, and leaves 2-3 instead of 1-2, indicating a more robust specimen.

Velamen and seed structure are of the Epidendrum type (Dressler, 1981, 1993).


The inflorescence is borne as a raceme and is held well above the leaves. The scape is borne from the apex of the new growth with 3-4 nodes spaced 9-9.3 cm apart with the remainder of the inflorescence 26-27 cm longer, and is bearing 9 flowers, 5 buds. The flowers open successively so that although basal flower may have wilted distal buds have yet to open.

Notes from plant records (Pl#270201-13)

Sat-03Mar01: Plants numbered Pl#270201-13/1&2 are being retained for research here. Pl#270201-13/1, a roundish clump of psbs, is potted in a tree fern pot and Pl#270201-13/2 is mounted on a cork plaque. Pl#270201-13/3 is being given to Betty Dunton of the Huntington Garden and Pl#270201-13/4 is being given to Dr. Carl Withner of Bellingham, Washington.

Fri-17Aug07: Plant #-13/3 was returned to the collection as the Duntons were moving from their long-time home in South Pasadena to the condominium in Alhambra. It is sprouting three inflorescences of 20-25 cm long.

Fri-14Sept07: The plant is in flower with three inflorescences. Photographed: DSC_1877, 1878, and 1879.

Sun-23Sept07: A portion of one inflorescence was photographed this date (DSC_1936).

Sat-24Nov07: The plant was de-basketed from the 6-inch basket, divided and the larger division rebasketed in a 12-by12-inch lattice basket.


Laelia eyermaniana, like others of the Mexican laelias, is easy of cultivation, flowers profusely, holds its blooms well above the leaves, and the flowering period is lengthy, all of which recommends it as a desirable plant for the hobby grower. Flowers have been sib-crossed and work is underway to propagate and make available plants of this species.


Berlin, E. A., Dennis E. Breedlove, and Peter H. Raven. 1974. Principles of Tzeltal plant Classification. New York: Academic Press. 660pp.

_______.and Brent Berlin. 1996. Medical Ethnobiology of the Highland Maya of Chiapas, Mexico. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 557pp.

Dressler, R. L. 1981. The Orchids: Natural History and Classification. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

_______. 1993. Phylogeny and Classification of The Orchid Family. Dioscorides Press, Portland OR.

Ferry, R.J. 1975-2009. Plant records, species writings, unpublished personal notes, & photos taken at various intervals

_______. 2001. (noted in article) The Genus Laelia. MIOS Journ. 2(12): 7-8 (Dec).

Hágsater, E., Miguel A. Soto Arenas, Gerardo A Salazar Chávez, Rolando Jimenez Machorro, Marco A. López Rosas, and Robert L. Dressler. 2005. Orchids of Mexico. México City, México: Productos Farmacéuticos, S. A. de C.V. 302pp.

_______., Miguel A. Soto Arenas, Gerardo A Salazar Chávez, Rolando Jimenez Machorro, Marco A. López Rosas, and Robert L. Dressler. 2005. Las Orquídeas de México. México City, México: Productos Farmacéuticos, S. A. de C.V. 302pp.

Halbinger, F. and Miguel Soto. 1997. Laelias of Mexico. Mexico City: Herbario AMO, Orquídea (Méx.) volumen 15. 160pp.

Mayr, H. 1998. Orchid Names and Their Meanings (trans. by M. Schmucker). Köegstrin, Germany: Koeltz Scientific Books (distrib.) A. R. G. Gantner Verlag K.-G. FL 9490 Vaduz. 548pp.

Reichenbach, fil. 1888. Laelia eyermaniana. Gardener's Chronicle ser. 3, 4: 91. fig. p. 109. 1888, pro hyb.

Williams, L.O. 1951. The Orchidaceae of Mexico. CEIBA 2:1-321 (plus index).

Copyright © 2009 R J Ferry