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Psychopsis papilio (Lindley) H. G. Jones.

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Charles and Margaret Baker

Psychopsis papilio (Lindley) H. G. Jones

AKA: Oncidium papilio Lindley, Psychopsis picta Rafinesque. The name
Oncidium papilio Lindley var. kramerianum (Rchb. f.) Lindley is now
considered a synonym of Psychopsis krameriana Rchb. f.

The name Psychopsis papilio is generally accepted, but growers and some
taxonomists still use the earlier name Oncidium papilio.

ORIGIN/HABITAT: Trinidad, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. In
Venezuela, plants are found the northern Provinces of Carabobo, Lara,
Mérida, Miranda, and Trujillo at 2600-3900 ft. (800-1200 m). Dunsterville
& Garay (1961) stated that this species grows in fairly tall, dense forest
at 1500 ft. (460 m) in Guatopo. They indicated that the species is
generally widespread, but it is not common in the lower, drier parts of
the coastal range forests.

CLIMATE: Station #80413, Maracay, Venezuela, Lat. 10.3N, Long. 67.6W, at
1468 ft. (447 m). Temperatures are calculated for an elevation of 3300 ft.
(1000 m), resulting in probable extremes of 93F (34C) and 44F (7C).

F AVG MAX        82   84   85   84   82   80   80   80   82   82   84   82
F AVG MIN        57   58   58   64   64   64   62   62   62   62   60   58
DIURNAL RANGE    25   26   27   20   18   16   18   18   20   20   24   24
RAIN/INCHES     0.3  0.4  0.0  1.0  4.1  5.9  5.2  7.9  5.3  3.3  1.6  1.0
HUMIDITY/%       70   66   62   66   74   77   79   81   80   78   76   74
BLOOM SEASON      *    *   **   **  ***   **  ***  ***  ***   **   **    *
DAYS CLR @  7AM  14   10    9    4    3    2    8    6    5    9    4    9
RAIN/MM           8   10    0   25  104  150  132  201  135   84   41   25
C AVG MAX      27.8 28.9 29.4 28.9 27.8 26.8 26.7 26.7 27.8 27.8 28.9 27.8
C AVG MIN      13.9 14.4 14.4 17.8 17.8 17.8 16.6 16.6 16.6 16.6 15.5 14.4
DIURNAL RANGE  13.9 14.5 15.0 11.1 10.0  9.0 10.1 10.1 11.2 11.2 13.4 13.4

Cultural Recommendations:

LIGHT: 1800-2500 fc. Plants may tolerate higher light levels if high
humidity and strong air movement are provided.

TEMPERATURE: Summer days average 80F (27C), and nights average 62-64F
(17-18C), with a diurnal range of 16-18F (9-10C). The wide range of
distribution and habitat elevation suggest that plants should adapt to
conditions 3-5F (2-3C) warmer than indicated.

HUMIDITY: 75-80% during the growing season.

WATER: Rainfall is moderate to heavy from late spring through early
autumn. Cultivated plants should be watered often while actively growing,
but successful growers indicate that plants need to dry out between
waterings. In most growing areas, this means that plants should be watered
every 2-3 days during the warmest days of summer. Mounted plants may need
daily watering, and they may need several waterings a day in hot, dry

FERTILIZER: 1/4-1/2 recommended strength, applied weekly during periods of
active growth. Many growers use a balanced fertilizer exclusively. Other
growers use a fertilizer with lower nitrogen and higher phosphorus in
autumn promotes better blooming the next season and allows new growths to
mature before winter.

REST PERIOD: Winter days average 82-84F (28-29C), and nights average
57-58F (14C), with a diurnal range of 24-26F (13-15C). The variation in
habitat elevation indicates that plants should adapt to conditions 3-5F
(2-3C) warmer than indicated. Winter rainfall is low for 4 months,
indicating that water should be reduced but not eliminated in winter. High
humidity and nightly cooling result in frequent and heavy deposits of dew,
and even more water is available from mist, fog, and low clouds.
Cultivated plants should dry out between waterings but should not be dry
for long periods. In most growing areas, plant's should be watered every 2
weeks or so, and water is the most beneficial when clear, sunny weather.
Occasional early morning mistings between waterings should keep plants
adequately moist. Fertilizer should be reduced as long as water is

GROWING MEDIA: Plants may be mounted on tree-fern or cork slabs if
humidity is high and plants are watered at least once daily in summer.
Several waterings a day may be necessary for mounted plants during very
hot, dry weather. Because most growers find it difficult to keep mounted
plants moist enough, they are usually grown in shallow pots or baskets
using an open, fast-draining medium which contains materials that retain
some moisture, such as chopped sphagnum or perlite, but dry fairly rapidly
after watering. Charcoal is often added to help keep the medium open and
prevent it from becoming sour. Repotting should be done only when
necessary, and then only just as new root growth is starting to enable the
plant to become reestablished in the shortest possible time. Our plants
grow well in relatively small wire baskets, about 3 in. (7.5 cm) deep,
that are lined with coconut fiber. The basket is then filled with a medium
made from a mixture of fine- and medium-grade tree-fern fiber mixed with
about 10% perlite and 10% charcoal. Most growers recommend using
undersized pots that are just large enough to hold the roots. Others,
however, with award winning plants, report using large, deep, plastic
pots. When we purchased 2 comparably sized, fairly large seedlings about 2
years ago, one was placed in a basket that is 4 in. (10 cm) square while
the other was placed in a basket about 5 in. (12 cm) square. This was not
done through design or planned experiment on our part. The baskets used
were simply ones that were already made up and available. Interestingly,
the plant in the smaller basket has always grown better, has now filled
the basket with multiple growths, and has produced 3 flower spikes this
year. The other plant continues to live, but it makes only one growth a
year and has not bloomed. We have concluded that for this particular
species, smaller containers work best in our growing environment with our
watering schedule. Each grower should experiment to find which combination
of containers and medium work best in a particular growing area with their
watering practices.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES: The bloom season shown in the climate table is based
on cultivation records. Confusion sometimes arises between this species
and its close relative, Psychopsis krameriana. The plants may be
differentiated by examining the upper portion of the flower stem. On
Psychopsis papilio, the stem is wide and flattened compare to the round
stem found on Psychopsis krameriana.

Plant and Flower Information:

PLANT SIZE AND TYPE: A moderately sized, 7.5-11.0 in. (19-28 cm),
sympodial epiphyte.

PSEUDOBULBS: 1.5-2.0 in. (3.7-5.0 cm) tall. The pseudobulbs are oval to
nearly round, tightly clustered, flattened, wrinkled, and often mottled
dull red with darker blotches.

LEAVES: 6-9 in. (15-23 cm) tall. One leaf is produced at the top of each
pseudobulb. They are rigidly erect, dull green, and mottled or blotched
with purplish red on both sides.

INFLORESCENCE: 24-60 in. (61-152 cm) tall. A single flower spike per
growth normally emerges from the base of recently matured pseudobulbs.
Inflorescences are erect to arching and flattened in the upper portion
where single flowers are produced in succession over a period of several
months. During this time, the inflorescences continue to lengthen as new
flowers are produced. The inflorescence should not be removed after
flowering as it usually continues to elongate and produce additional
blooms for several years.

FLOWERS: 1 at a time. A well-grown plant may display several flowering
inflorescences at the same time. Blossoms are 5-6 in. (13-15 cm) long and
extremely long lasting. The dorsal sepal and petals are erect, dull
reddish crimson, and frequently marked with a few yellow transverse
stripes. The sickle-shaped, bright chestnut-red lateral sepals are wavy
along the margins with occasional yellow markings. The large, expanded,
3-lobed lip is about 1.6 in. (4 cm) long and 1.4 in. (3.5 cm) wide. The
sidelobes are rounded and small, the midlobe, which is broadly clawed, has
a wavy margin that is irregularly notched with a deep notch at the apex.
The yellow lip is marked with orange-brown or red-brown near the base and
in a relatively wide, solid colored band around the edge of the midlobe.
The callus is made up of 3 erect ridges on a fleshy plate, with the middle
ridge much longer than the side ridges. The erect column has wings with
fringed edges. There is an antennalike projection with a knoblike tip
above the wings on each side of the column below the anther cap. The
flattened upper portion of the inflorescence and the distinctive
column-wings with their knob-tipped upper fimbriae are the easiest and
quickest ways to differentiate Psychopsis papilio from other members of
the genus.

HYBRIDIZING NOTES: Chromosome count is 2n = 38.


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

Braem, G. J. 1993. Studies in the Oncidiinae. Schlechteriana 4(1-2):8-29.

Dunsterville, G., and E. Dunsterville. 1988. Orchid hunting in the lost
world (and elsewhere in Venezuela). American Orchid Society, Inc., 6000
South Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach, FL 33405, U. S. A.

Dunsterville, G., and L. Garay. 1961. Venezuelan orchids illustrated, vol.
2. Orchid Herbarium of Oakes Ames, Botanical Museum, Harvard University,
Cambridge, Mass.

Foldats, E. 1970. Flora of Venezuela --Orchidaceae. Parts 1-6. Instituto
Botanico, Direcdeion de recursos Naturales Renovables. Ministerio De
Agricultura Y Cria. Caracas.

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

Copyright 1997, Charles O. Baker and Margaret L. Baker
Sheet version 94436186

Please remember that this sheet is for your use only, and though it was
provided free of charge, it may not be reproduced or retransmitted in
any way without permission.

 "Orchid Species Culture" Charles & Margaret Baker, Portland, Oregon USA

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This culture sheet was provided by Charles and Margaret Baker.
Please visit their web site to find out about their Orchid Species Culture books,
Pollination Database, and culture sheet subscription service.