Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Stanhopea embreei

Stanhopea embreei growing underneath
 trees in dappled shade
This species is native to moderate elevations 1,640-3,937 feet (500-1200 meters) of the western Andes in Ecuador and Peru.  It grows in moist cloud forests and is often subjected to cool winds and temperatures.  This species grows well outdoors in coastal southern California in part shade out of direct sun.  The leaves are wide and rather thin so they can be easily burned when subjected to too much sun or adversely affected by lack of water.  This is one of the earlier flowering species and can bloom as early as June to July.  Some forms have flowers with yellow blotches or reddish brown eye spots at the base of the petals. This form has its first inflorescence with only two flowers, but also has random single spots on some sepals. This species has a unique fragrance that is herbal and sweet. To me it smells like a mixture of sweet witch hazel and fresh basil, or a nice herbal liqueur like Becherovka!

Stanhopea embreei labellum and column detail
This orchid produces inflorescences from late spring to early summer with 3-7 flowers that are small (for the genus) 3.5 inches (8.75 cm) wide. The form shown in the photograph has flowers that are 4.4 inches (11.1 cm) wide.  These flowers are primarily white, often with a bright yellow hypochile, and a dark purple to reddish brown eye spot on the upper portion of the hypochile.  The flowers will often fade to an ivory color after a day or so.  The horns are rather short and narrow with purple to red small spots on the interior side.  The epichile is widely spade shaped and has small purple to red spots on the upper side.

This species would make a great addition to a Stanhopea collection with the beautiful flowers, unique fragrance and the added benefit of being one of the earlier blooming species.

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