Michael Charters, www.calflora.net
CATTLEYA gaskelliana f. alba
Plant Common Name
Cattleya, Corsage Orchid, White Gaskell's Corsage Orchid
This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.
Majestic in size, texture and beauty, the white form alba of Cattleya gaskelliana is admired for its large, fragrant, ruffled white late springtime flowers. An epiphyte (growing on another plant) or lithophyte (growing on rocks), this tender perennial orchid from eastern Venezuela's montane forests, white Gaskell's corsage orchid will form a lush, sprawling cluster on a tree branch, rock, wood basket or clay pot in frost-free gardens. This orchid that flowers so prolifically unfortunately led to its extensive overcollection in the 20th century, now rare to find in its native forests.
A stiff, leathery green leaf grow from each elongated pseudobulb. In late winter the new growth begins, and by the last weeks of spring the flowers emerge from this maturing new growth. Each grapefruit-sized blossom is fragrant and ruffled, delicate white with a cone-like tube with yellow throat. There is also an obvious violet splotch. There can be some clone variation in the flower color, from pure white to faint lavender-white, all having that yellowy throat and darker violet blotch.
Grow white Gaskell's corsage orchid in partial sun mounted upon a tree branch, in a wire or wooden slat basket or weighted pot in a warm, frost-free location. No soil can be used; rather the plant can be supported in a coarse bark or charcoal media that allows water to freely drain and becomes dry before the next watering. High humidity, excellent air circulation, and rainfall in the warmth of spring through fall is ideal, allow the plant to be drier and receive more light from autumn to early spring. Increase watering only once new growth has well-progressed in mid-spring. Leaves can scorch in hot afternoon sun, especially with low ambient humidity. Leaves also become overly yellow-green when light is too intense. Lack of sunlight also can prevent flowering. In order to enjoy the flowers longer (up to three weeks), it is recommended to temporarily relocate the plant to a slightly cooler spot with less direct afternoon light.
This is a lovely specimen plant for a warm sunroom or greenhouse in cold climates, or as a clumping accent upon a tropical palm trunk, on a large rock, or in a basket for the patio. Use the cut flowers for leis, hair decals, table garnishes or floral arrangements. Consider repotting this orchid only if it is greatly rootbound, and then only if not in flower and new roots are beginning to elongate.