C. warscewiczii

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first bloomer from the archives. I think it's taking this year off, hopefully it'll return with a vengeance next year...


Hailing from the mountains of Colombia and first described by H.G. Reichenbach in 1854, Cattleya warscewiczii is perhaps the most spectacular member of the genus. Well-grown plants can produce up to ten flowers on a commanding vertical inflorescence, with each flower reaching 8-12" in natural spread. The flowers, which have a light floral fragrance, run the gamut in terms of flower color, from light to dark lavender, semi-alba, alba, and coerulea. The flowers of C. warscewiczii frequently have two prominent yellow "eyes" in the lips, although these are variable in size and intensity, and are occasionally absent altogether. In 1873, Jean Linden described a "C. gigas" (unaware of the earlier published description), and that particular epithet has persisted to this day, undoubtedly in part due to its ease of pronounciation and its aptness with regards to flower size.

Cattleya warscewiczii is one of the more challenging of the unifoliates to grow. After a prolonged fall-winter rest during which time it must be kept quite dry, C. warscewiczii typically starts growing in late winter to early spring. Some growers recommend increasing light levels during the late winter months and spraying the surface of the medium to induce the plants to start new growth. Water should still be provided sparingly until the new growths are 4-5 inches in height, at which time the plants will begin to benefit from increasing water at the roots. The spectacular flowers are produced in July-August on the new growths, and the plant generally produces roots immediately after flowering. It is at this time and this time only that the plant can be safely repotted.

This particular plant is a typical lavender form that is blooming for the first time. The flowers are relatively small (4.5") but have the typical form and the yellow eyes characteristic of the species. Mature plants, however, are capable of producing some of the most spectacular floral shows of the orchid kingdom. Much praise has been heaped upon Cattleya warscewiczii, but perhaps Jean Linden summed it up best in 1873 when he described "C. gigas" as "quite simply the most beautiful orchid in the world."

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