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Monday, November 24, 2014

Pescatoria lehmannii

The phrase 'beautiful orchid' invariably conjures in my mind an image of this particular species.

It's not just the blue-violet perianth or the creamy citrus scent. On top of everything else, it's that lip, thickly carpeted with hairs, that makes Pescatoria* lehmannii extraordinary to me. That combination of beauty and quirkiness is irresistible.

So what's up with that lip, anyway?  Let's remove the petals and sepals and have a closer look.
Dorsal view. Pointing directly at us is the column and below it is that impressively hairy lip.

Turning the flower on its side, you can see that the lip has a distinctive raised thickening, or callus, at its base. The callus has ribs, called keels.

Dorsal view again, this time with the column removed. With the column removed you can get a better look at the base of the lip and the callus. The base of the lip has a deep opening outlined by the callus. In Pescatoria lehmannii the interior outline of the callus is an inverted M.

Turning the lip over to view its ventral surface, you can see that the lip actually has two side lobes rolled backward. At the base of the lip is the narrow claw, which joins the lip to the base of the column.
Here's the column in ventral view. Some pescatorias (the former Bollea species) have a column with lateral wings. Pescatoria lehmannii has a wingless column.

We grow Pescatoria lehmannii in a greenhouse with intermediate temperatures, 85% relative humidity and 80 % shade. It does well for us in a mixture of premium sphagnum and coarse shredded tree fern fiber. Since pescatorias (all Zygopetalinae, actually) hate root disturbance, I prefer to grow them in cedar baskets rather than plastic containers. After about three years, the basket disintegrates and becomes easy to remove with minimal root disturbance.

*I've updated the spelling of this genus to make it consistent with the International Plant Names Index.


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