Sunday, July 28, 2013

Stanhopea oculata

This species is native to Mexico and Central America (perhaps south to Brazil) from elevations of 3,280-9,842 feet (1000 to 3000 m). It is found in foothill and mountain forests and it grows in intermediate to cool conditions.  This is one of the Stanhopea that can easily grow outdoors in coastal southern California and requires shade and high humidity to perform well. The flowers are moderate sized 4.3-4.5 inches (10.8-11.4 cm) wide, and there are many forms that are buff colored to bright yellow.  There is a considerable amount of variation in color and quantity of spots on the petals and sepals with most having a torus shaped (like the letter O) red to purple colored spots.   Several forms have a plethora of intense red to purple spots on the upper hypochile and the epichile. 


Stanhopea oculata inflorescence
The best known characters used to identify this species is the narrow hypochile that is bent at a 90 degree angle, and several dark red eye spots along the hypochile and base of the petals.  The eye spots are what provide us with the epithet “oculata” meaning eyes in Latin.  The most common form of S. oculata sold in southern California has two eye spots on each side of the hypochile and also two eye spots on each petal.  The inflorescences are up to 25 cm long with 5 to 9 flowers per inflorescence.

Stanhopea oculata flower exhibiting
two eye spots at the base of each petal.
Along with the ease of growth and flowering, and the variable flower color, this species is also well known for its fragrance.  This fragrance has been described as vanilla mixed with mint and a hint of cocoa.  If that fragrance sounds too good to be true, it isn’t, it actually comes close to a chocolate peppermint patty candy scent.  The fragrance rivals that of S. tigrina and can easily fill a room, or be detected twenty feet away in my garden.  This is definitely a species that every Stanhopea grower should have at least one form of!

Stanhopea oculata inflorescence

2 comments:

  1. I just got one of these today...can't wait for it to bloom!

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  2. just bought 2 divisions of this for $10! whats the best potting strategy?

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