Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cattleya mossiae 'Willowbrook' a species? a hybrid? does it matter?

This flower has large wide petals which give it a nice full shape however it is a bit asimetrical.  The color is slightly deeper than normal.

A poor blooming produced when the plant was weakened by root loss.

Cattleya mossiae ‘Willowbrook’ FCC/AOS is widely considered to be a hybrid of Cattleya mossiae and Cattleya luedemanniana called Cattleya Gravesiae.   Whether it is a species or a hybrid this has little weight regarding my enjoyment of this plant as in my view this information is mainly of concern to hybridizers and purist species collectors.
This beautiful orchid has a lot to recommend it, it has a delightful fragrance, the flowers can be large and its color is lovely.  On the other hand in my experience, it is a veritable scale magnet, if it doesn’t get an open and airy media it will produce only a few short roots, also if its root system is damaged it sulks, sometimes for years.  Finally you will have to devote some effort to work out which is for your location the right combination of light/watering/fertilizer/media for this plant or your chances of getting the huge FCC quality flowers that this plant can produce will be slim.  If you have never seen a strong plant blooming, the flowers produced by weak plants can make you wonder how this plant ever got a FCC.
As you can see in the photo this plant can produce wide flat petals that can put to shame even the best hybrids.  But as the flower ages it tends to flex its petals forward and its sepals backwards so this state of wonderful roundness is unfortunately an ephemeral stage that ocurrs as the flower opens and the petals unfold.  If the flowers are protected from the insects and birds they can last for weeks even when grown outside in the tropics where exposure to rain and wind can damage other Cattleyas with less sturdy flowers.
My plant has survived, insects, snails, fungal infections and root loss but all these took their toll and I almost lost it.  My plant dwindled to just a few small pseudobulbs.  But I have moved it to a drier location where fungal infections are much less prevalent.  Hopefully it will regain its strength and someday I will be able to post a new photo of his flowers in all its glory.
This is how I culture this plant:
Light:  Strong, full sunlight from sunrise to approximately 10 am then the dappled shade of trees.  But I am experimenting with growing it under shade cloth.
Watering:  Almost every day when it is growing but twice a week when it is not growing.
Fertilizing:  Every week when the plant is in full growth, one when it is not growing.
Media:  Used to grow it on medium bark, but this has proven troublesome as when it decays it tends to become too water retentive, even when the plant is grown in a wire basket.  I plan to repot it to media that is less water retentive such as a combination of bark, charcoal and stone.
Temperature:  Seems unaffected in any way that I can see to highs in the nineties in the summer  and lows in the fifties in the winter.  

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