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CATASETUM bicolor

Image of Catasetum bicolor

Family

Orchidaceae

Botanical Name

CATASETUM bicolor

Plant Common Name

Catasetum Orchid, Orchid

General Description

Deciduous in winter and producing small fragrant flowers in summer, the two-colored catasetum orchid's blooms are either predominantly russet red and white or yellow-green. This epiphytic (tree-dwelling) orchid is native to the lowland, hot rainforests of Panama to northwestern Brazil.

"Catasetum" is a Greek compound word meaning "down bristle." This orchid genus is unique in having different gendered flowers on the same plant. Male flowers have an antenna-like trigger device that snaps pollen onto the backs of visiting bees. These pollen-covered insects then find a hooded female flower and unknowingly pollinate it. Because male and female flowers look different, people may have considerable difficulty identifying plants, especially if growing conditions or gender diphasy prevents the development of both flower genders on a single plant at the same time.

Two-colored catasetum develops a clump of oval, fleshy pseudobulbs that attach to trees with their roots. Their light green, thin and soft leaves are pleated and lance-shaped. They shrivel and drop away by fall as the plant enters a natural winter dormancy period. Flowering occurs well after new spring growth emerges. This species blooms from late spring to midsummer. A pendent or arching flower stalk rises from the base of young pseudobulbs, and carries either all male flowers or all female flowers. A plant can produce both flower types, but always on separate flower stalks. Male Catasetum flowers are showier with longer more spreading petals than female blooms, which are smaller and cup-like. In lower light, a plant may only produce male flowers, whereas bright light encourages the production of both female and male flowers. Two-colored catasetum's male flowers are deep rusty red with a white and red speckled lip petal, and female blossoms are yellow-green.

Where hardy, two-colored catasetum can be grown outdoors mounted on a tree trunk or in a hanging basket or slatted wood box. In frostier climes it should be grown indoors in a warm greenhouse or very bright sunroom. Plant in coarse bark nuggets for orchid culture and provide full sun to very bright dappled shade. Too little light prevents good flowering. Water the orchid freely when new growth and foliage is present (mid-spring to fall). From fall to spring, water very little. Do not begin spring watering until new leaf growth reaches two inches (5 cm) long. Good air circulation with high humidity will encourage good growth. Fertilize weekly with a dilute solution of balanced fertilizer from spring to late summer. Don't be alarmed when the leaves turn yellow in fall; this is the signal dormancy has set in and to markedly reduce watering.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 10

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    12 - 15

  • Plant Type

    Epiphyte

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    10"-18" / 25.4cm - 45.7cm

  • Width

    14"-22" / 35.6cm - 55.9cm

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Central America, South America, Brazil

Growing Conditions

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Yellow Green, Burgundy, Dark Red

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Multi-Color

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Hanging Basket, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No