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CATASETUM pileatum

Image of Catasetum pileatum

James Burghardt

Family

Orchidaceae

Botanical Name

CATASETUM pileatum

Plant Common Name

Catasetum Orchid, Orchid

General Description

Blooming anytime from late spring into autumn, the felt-capped catasetum has large flowers shaped somewhat like those of Oncidium orchids; they abstractly look like a dancing lady with a wide skirt. This species is native to hot, lowland rainforests in Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru. It's a winter deciduous epiphyte (grows on trees) that forms a perennial clump.

"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 felt-capped catasetum orchid produces fleshy pseudobulbs with thin, soft, pleated leaves of medium green. The leaves shrivel and drop away by midwinter as the plant enters a natural dormancy period in the short tropical dry season. Flowering occurs well after new spring growth emerges. It blooms from late spring to mid-autumn. An erect or pendent flower stalk rises from newly matured 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 much longer and showier than their smaller, cup-like female counterparts. In shade a plant may only produce male flowers, while bright light encourages the production of both female and male flowers. Female flowers are also held upside-down, with the lip on the upper half of the blossom. Felt-capped catasetum's male flowers are either light green, all white, or russet red and white, depending on the individual plant. The female blossoms are always less showy with cream to yellow-green pigmentation.

Where hardy, felt-capped 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

    11 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H2

  • Plant Type

    Epiphyte

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    16"-22" / 40.6cm - 55.9cm

  • Width

    24"-36" / 61.0cm - 91.4cm

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer, Summer, Late Summer, Early Fall, Fall

  • Native To

    South America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Yellow Green, Dark Red, Ivory

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • 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

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Hanging Basket, Houseplant, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No