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PROSTHECHEA cochleata

Image of Prosthechea cochleata

Family

Orchidaceae

Botanical Name

PROSTHECHEA cochleata

Plant Common Name

Clamshell Orchid, Cockleshell Orchid

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

With light green flowers that are inverted to look like small octopuses, the cockleshell orchid is unique in that it holds its burgundy and orange floral lip at the top of the flower, unlike most orchids. A small evergreen tropical orchid, it is an epiphyte (growing on another plant). It is native to Central and northern South America, the Caribbean and southernmost Florida, where it is endangered. There are two differently sized forms, one that is much smaller in all its parts; for floral impact usually the larger form is grown and used in breeding. This is the national flower of Belize.

Cockleshell orchid has large, flattened oval pseudobulbs from which two thin but stiff oval green leaves grow. It has a long flowering season, starting in spring and lasting into autumn as the flowers open in succession. Mature pseudobulbs send up a short-branched stem. Each non-fragrant flower has long, thin light green petals and sepals while the lip is maroon, burgundy and orange with stripes. The lip is held at the top of the blossom which makes it unique among orchids. The stripes of color within the lip gives rise to the common name of cockleshell or clamshell orchid. After flowering the plant undergoes a mild dormancy across the dry winter season.

An easy-to-grow orchid that is perfect for novice orchid enthusiasts, cockleshell orchid needs very bright indirect light, or partial shade with exposure to direct sun only in the early morning or late near dusk. Its leaves will scald in hot midday sunlight. It doesn't grow in soil but should be mounted upon a tree, wood block or bark slab or wedged in a coarse bark in a wood lat basket or weighted pot. Water must freely drain from the plant and bark. When actively growing from spring to autumn, water frequently and provide occasional dilute fertilizer showers. Reduce watering and stop fertilizing in winter.

Use cockleshell orchid as a clumping accent in a frost-free garden on a tree or palm trunk or in a hanging basket or container on the shaded patio. Indoors it needs very bright indirect light to ensure it will flower. If leaves are dark green it may indicate light levels are too low. Humidity can be increased in the home by placing the plant atop a tray of rocks filled with water. Ensure there is good air circulation around this orchid regardless of where it is grown.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 9

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 13

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Epiphyte

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    12"-20" / 30.5cm - 50.8cm

  • Width

    10"-18" / 25.4cm - 45.7cm

  • Bloom Time

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

  • Native To

    Southeastern United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, Caribbean, Central America, South America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White, Burgundy, Dark Red, Light Green, Violet, Dark Salmon

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Multi-Color

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Feature Plant, Houseplant, Mixed Border

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No