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Vol. 11(7), pp. 4-6The McAllen International Orchid Society JournalJuly 2010

Two Cymbidiums

R J Ferry

Fig. 1. C. aloifolium, close-up of flowers. Digital photo: DSC_3597, 14 Jun 10.

Fig. 2. Pl#180106-7JA. Cymbidium aloifolium. Plant with several (spent) inflorescences. Digital photo: DSC_3600; 14 Jun 10.

At the June meeting, somebody (Grace?) received a good-sized pot with a plant of Pl#180106-7JA. Cymbidium aloifolium (Fig. 1) (Fig. 2). It should be checked to make certain the name tag's number and name are correct! The name tag may have had a wrong name written on it! The name tag should be written as shown above. This plant is a division of one from the collection of Dr. Joseph Arditti, a long-time orchid researcher and the author/editor of several excellent books. It was given to your editor when your editor and his wife were visiting with Dr. Arditti at his home in southern California a few years ago.

Cymbidium aloifolium was originally described by Linnaeus in 1753 as Epidendrum aloifolium, but was removed to the genus Cymbidium by Olof Swartz in 1799. This species is widespread from the Himlayan foothills throughout eastern India and all the countries eastward to Viet Nam and southern China, and southward through western Malaysia, Sumatra, and into Java. It grows from sea level to 1500 meters (ca. 5000 feet). In nature, it grows mostly in the forks and hollows of large branches and tree trunks, usually in open forests, in partial shade provided by the leaf canopy above, but it's also known to grow on limestone rocks. Its flowering period ranges from as early as March to as late as August. It's a sturdy plant with robust foliage, but sitting it out in the direct sunlight is an invitation to getting the leaves sunburned!

Fig. 3. C. atropurpureum. Close-up of flowers. Digital photo: DSC_3598; 14 Jun 10.

Fig. 4. Pl#010407-2. Cymbidium atropurpureum. Plant showing length of inflorescence. Digital photo: DSC_3599; 14 Jun 10.

Mike Kamp, the society's president, displayed a big beautiful specimen of Cymbidium atropurpureum (Fig. 3) (Fig. 4) at the meeting. Both C. atropurpureum and C. aloifolium are very similar vegetatively, and both bear pendulous inflorescences, but those of C. atropurpureum can drape down 90 cm or so (about three feet!); somewhat longer than those of C. aloifolium As may be noted in the figures showing the plants, both plants need to be up on some sort of a stand (concrete blocks?) so the inflorescenses hang down without touching the floor!

Cymbidium atropurpureum is native to the island of Hainan in southern China (within China, only that island), southen Viet Nam and Cambodia, western Malaysia, and from this area northeast through Java and Borneo into the southern Philippines. It's a lowland species, but has been collected as high as 1200 meters in Sabah and at 2200 m in Sumatra. It usually flowers from March into May, but it's also been known to flower at other odd times during the year (probably depending on how warm its greenhouse or shade house habitat has been kept). The plant in Fig. 4. is showing only one inflorescence, but several more are just sprouting.

As may be seen from the figures, both of these plants could bear with being repotted. As a result, the day following the meeting saw some shopping for a few larger (10 & 12-inch diameter) clay pots, and after considerable effort, the Cymbidium atropurpureum was evicted from its pot, and after considerably more effort, was divided and now there are four pots of this species instead of one! The plant was so wedded to its original pot that a large section of the pot broke loose during the eviction process. However, in line with as much "pot preservation" as possible, an epoxy glue was mixed, and the pot was glued back together and has been reused!

Considering how packed were the roots of Cymbidium atropurpureum within its pot, it seemed like a good idea to consider depotting and repotting Cymbidium aloifolium. However, once the operation was well underway, there were moments when the idea seemed much less than a good one! The root mass was packed within the pot, and fairly well glued to the pot's clay walls, and once the plant was de-potted, there was the effort to separate roots and finally plant divisions! Ultimately it separated into eight divisions and one backbulb. Three robust ones were repotted in 12-inch clay pots. Three other divisions went into 8 or 10½-inch clay pots (because we had run out of larger pots!). The remaining small divisions went into 6-inch pots. These will have to be repotted into larger pots as soon as their root systems become reasonably established!

All of this depotting, dividing and repotting took place on Thursday, 01 July, 2010 as the backflow from Hurricane Alex was pouring rain throughout this area some 250 miles north of where--the day before--it made landfall in Mexico a few miles south of Brownsville, Texas. This area of Victoria, Texas has needed rain, but probably not upwards of the seven or eight inches received thus far (and still coming as this is being written).

Fig. 5. View from within the greenhouse. Newly potted plants sitting in rain, through the courtesy of Hurricane Alex. Digital photo DSC_3625; Thur, 01 Jul 10.

With all eight divisions of Cymbidium aloifolium repotted, it seemed like a good idea to take advantage of the rain to "set" and soak the bark, hence the view just outside the greenhouse's door, looking toward the back of the house, shows these (and other plants) sitting in the rain (Fig. 5). In the background, in the top-right side of the figure can be seen the shade cloth of the house's back patio where a few dozen other orchids are also receiving a thorough watering.

At this point, one can only hope there are a few MIOS members who might be interested in culturing Cymbidium aloifolium. Your editor certainly doesn't need to be housing all eight of these for a few years!

Copyright © 2010 R J Ferry