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Brassavola nodosa (Linnaeus) Lindley

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Charles and Margaret Baker

Brassavola nodosa (Linnaeus) Lindley

AKA: Epidendrum nodosum Linnaeus. Brassavola venosa Lindley. Brassavola
rhopalorrhachis Rchb. f. Brassavola scaposa Schlechter. Withner (1996
P.C.), however, included Brassavola gillettei Jones as a synonym of B.
nodosa, but he considered B. venosa Lindley to be a separate species, and
both B. rhopalorrhachis and B. scaposa to be synonyms of B. grandiflora

ORIGIN/HABITAT: Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and Venezuela. This
species is widespread in Mexico along the Gulf of Mexico coast southward
from Tampico, and plants are also found on the Pacific coast in the state
of Chiapas. The habitat continues south through Central America, along
both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, and extends into northern Venezuela
and Colombia. Collections have also been reported on islands in the West
Indies. Plants are found in low lying coastal regions, generally below
1640 ft. (500 m), growing on either trees in lowland tropical forests and
mangrove swamps, or on exposed rocks and cliffs near the shore. 

CLIMATE: Station #76691, Veracruz, Mexico, Lat. 19.1N, Long. 96.2W,
elevation 69 ft. (21 m). Record extreme temperatures are 98F (37C) and 53F

F AVG MAX        77   78   79   83   86   87   87   87   86   85   80   78
F AVG MIN        66   67   68   72   75   75   74   74   74   73   69   67
DIURNAL RANGE    11   11   11   11   11   12   13   13   12   12   11   11
RAIN/INCHES     0.9  0.6  0.3  0.6  2.1  9.6  9.7 11.8 13.6  6.0  3.5  1.0
HUMIDITY/%       81   83   83   81   80   81   81   79   80   77   78   80
BLOOM SEASON      *    *    *    *    *   **   **   **   **   **   **    *
DAYS CLR        N/A
RAIN/MM          23   15    8   15   53  244  246  300  345  152   89   25
C AVG MAX      25.0 25.6 26.1 28.3 30.0 30.6 30.6 30.6 30.0 29.4 26.7 25.6
C AVG MIN      18.9 19.4 20.0 22.2 23.9 23.9 23.3 23.3 23.3 22.8 20.6 19.4
DIURNAL RANGE   6.1  6.2  6.1  6.1  6.1  6.7  7.3  7.3  6.7  6.6  6.1  6.2

Cultural Recommendations:  

LIGHT: 2500-3500 fc. Plants may well be able to tolerate higher light
levels, if they are introduced gradually. When light is high, high
humidity and strong air movement must be provided, and water should be
kept off the leaves during the brightest part of the day to prevent

TEMPERATURE: Summer days average 87F (31C), and nights average 74-75F
(23-24C), with a diurnal range of 12-13F (7C).

HUMIDITY: Near 80% year-round.

WATER: Heavy through the growing season. However, most regions in the
habitat experience a pronounced winter dry season ranging in length from 1
to 6 months, and growers report that cultivated plants must be given at
least a 2 week dry period to mature growths and induce flowering.
Cultivated plants should be kept moist while actively growing. Watering
every 2-3 days during the hottest and brightest time of the year is
adequate in most growing areas.

FERTILIZER: A balanced fertilizer, mixed at 1/4-1/2 recommended strength,
should be applied weekly during periods of active growth. Many growers use
a fertilizer with lower nitrogen and higher phosphate in autumn. This
improves blooming the next season and encourages new growths to harden
before winter. Pots should be leached every few weeks to prevent salt
buildup, especially when fertilizer is being applied most heavily. Plants
should first be watered normally to dissolve any accumulated salts. An
hour or so later, the medium is flushed with water equal to about twice
the volume of the pot. Year-round leaching is important in areas with
heavily mineralized water. 

REST PERIOD: Winter days average 77-78F (25-26C), and nights average
66-67F (17C), with a diurnal range of 11F (6C). While rainfall is low
during a 4-5 month period in winter in the Veracruz region, the dry season
may be as long at 6 months or as short as 1 month at other locations.
However, high humidity and nightly cooling results in frequent, heavy
deposits of dew, which makes some water available to the plants.
Therefore, during this time, water should be reduced but not eliminated
for cultivated plants. In most growing areas, these conditions may be
provided by occasional early morning misting, with a light watering given
once every 2-3 weeks, especially if a period of bright sunny weather is
expected. If plants are grown cooler during the winter than the
temperatures indicated above, it is very important that water be reduced
even more than recommended. Fertilizer should be reduced or eliminated
during this time. Light levels should be maintained as high as possible,
short of burning the foliage.

GROWING MEDIA: Plastic pots are now used by most growers. The heavy water
requirements during the growing season demands the use of a very open,
fast draining medium such as medium to large fir bark, cork nuggets, or
tree-fern fiber. Undersized pots large enough to hold the roots and give
room for about two year's growth should be used. Repotting should be done
just as new root growth is starting, or as soon after flowering as
possible. Plants may be mounted on slabs of cork or tree-fern fiber if
high humidity can be maintained, and if water can be applied at least once
daily during the summer.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES: Brassavola nodosa is a warm growing species
throughout its habitat range, but will adapt to a wide range of conditions
in cultivation. Many plants are grown with average winter low temperatures
of 58-60F (14-16C). One grower reported that it may be grown even cooler,
but it will not bloom if winter lows are colder than 52F (11C). If plants
are grown under cool conditions, it is vitally important that they be kept
The bloom season shown in the climate table is based on cultivation

Plant and Flower Information:

PLANT SIZE AND TYPE: A clump forming epiphyte or lithophyte that may reach
a height of 15-18 in. (38-46 cm), but is often shorter. The connecting
rhizome between growths is usually short, and established plants tend to
start several new growths. Consequently, specimen plants are easily grown.

PSEUDOBULBS: Instead of pseudobulbs, plants have short slender stems up to
6 in. (15 cm) long that are concealed by scarious tubular sheaths. 

LEAVES: A single leaf is produced on each growth. Leaves are extremely
variable in size and shape, ranging from 4 to 12 in. (10-30 cm) long and
from 0.1 to 0.7 in. (0.3-1.8 cm) wide. The grey-green leaves are usually
erect, very fleshy, grooved on the upper surface, and often appear
subterete or semicylindrical.

INFLORESCENCE: 1 per growth. The erect inflorescence is about 8 in. (20
cm) long and arise from the leaf axil as the new growth matures. 

FLOWERS: 1-6 on each inflorescence. The long-lived flowers, which are very
fragrant at night, are usually about 3.5 in. (9 cm) across, but may reach
nearly 6 in. (15 cm). Sepals and petals are long and slender, do not
spread widely, and vary in color from pale green or yellowish to nearly
pure white. The large lip is tubular at the base, then opens widely,
producing a heart-shaped terminal area that may be as large as 2 in. (5
cm) across. The lip is white and often marked with purple or dark red
spotting inside the tube. 

HYBRIDIZING NOTES: The chromosome count is 2n = 40. When used in
hybridizing, Brassavola nodosa produces offspring that frequently bloom
more than once a year. They usually grow vigorously, are easy to grow, and
tolerate a variety of growing conditions. Hybrids are usually very
fragrant. The B. nodosa flower shape is usually dominant, while the color
of the offspring is most often determined by the other parent. However,
the tendency for spots in the tube of the lip of B. nodosa is usually
passed on and magnified in the hybrid progeny, which usually have large
spotted lips. The tendency may result in much spotting and other unusual
markings on the lip. Many hybridizers consider the best results to be
obtained when B. nodosa is used as the pollen parent, but other growers
feel that it should be the 'mother plant'. 


Ames, O., and D. S. Correll. [1952, 1953, 1965] 1985. Orchids of Guatemala
and Belize. Parts 1-3. Fieldiana: Botany  26(1), 26(2), 31(7). Chicago
Natural History Museum Press, Chicago. Reprint, Dover Publications, New

Batchelor, S. R. 1980. The Butterworth Prize for most outstanding specimen
plant. American Orchid Society Bulletin  49(8):871. 

Bechtel, H., P. Cribb, and E. Launert. 1980. Manual of cultivated orchid
species. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Dunsterville, G. C. K., and L. A. Garay. 1959. Venezuelan orchids
illustrated, vol. 1. Orchid Herbarium of Oakes Ames, Botanical Museum,
Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Gann, B. and J. Byrne. 1983. Brassavola nodosa (L.) Ldl. and Encyclia
cordigera (HBK) Dressler in the Colombian Sierra Nevada: some cultural
notes on two long-time favorites. Orchid Digest 47(3). 

Gerber, R. and M. 1988. Hybridizing with Brassavola nodosa. American
Orchid Society Bulletin 57(5). 

Hamilton, R. M. 1988. When does it flower? 2nd ed. Robert M. Hamilton,
9211 Beckwith Road, Richmond, B.C., Canada V6X 1V7.

Hammer, F. 1984. Orchids of Nicaragua, part 4. Icones Plantarum Tropicarum
fascicle 11. The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 811 South Palm Avenue,
Sarasota, Fl. 33577. 

Hawkes, A. D. 1987. Encyclopaedia of cultivated orchids. Faber and Faber,

Hágsater, E. and G. A. Salazar. 1990. Icones orchidacearum fascicle I,
orchids of Mexico. Asociacion Mexicana de Orquideologia A. C., Mexico.

Jones, H. G. 1975. 

Sabo, E. T. 1988. The Alluring Lady of the Night. American Orchid Society
Bulletin  57(5). 

Soule, L. C. 1990. Fragrance in  Orchids. American Orchid Society Bulletin

Withner (1996 P.C.). 


Copyright 1997, Charles O. Baker and Margaret L. Baker
Sheet version 546748

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