JTJJ/Chounder, Wikimedia Commons Contributor
Plant Common Name
Nodding Catasetum Orchid, Orchid
Blooming from late spring into summer, nodding catasetum has fragrant spotted flowers of dark russet red and light yellow-green. This species is native to fragmented areas across South America's highland forests, from the hillsides of Venezuela and Trinidad to distant southeastern Brazil. It's an epiphyte (grows on trees) that forms a clump of leafy pseudobulbs that lose their leaves in winter.
"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.
The nodding catasetum orchid has fleshy pseudobulbs with medium green, thin, pleated leaves. The leaves shrivel and drop away by fall as the plant enters a natural dormancy through the cool, dry tropical winter season. Flowering occurs well after new spring growth emerges. Nodding catasetum blooms from late spring to midsummer. An erect but arching flower stalk rises from newly developing 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 and larger than the cup-like female flowers. In more shade, a plant may only produce male flowers while bright light encourages both female and male flowers to be produced. Nodding catasetum's male flowers are light green and russet while female blossoms are yellow-green.
Where hardy, bearded 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.
AHS Heat Zone
11 - 9
USDA Hardiness Zone
11 - 13
12"-20" / 30.5cm - 50.8cm
16"-20" / 40.6cm - 50.8cm
Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer
South America, Brazil