I spotted an Elephant Hawk Moth in my garden this week which reminds me of the fantastic diversity of moths found in tropical orchid habitats. We have seen some terrific moths in the South America and tropical Asia and lots of our orchid species are evolved for moth pollination. One common characteristic is flowers restricting the range of moths that can visit thier flowers and Epidendrum ciliare has a long spike on the end of the lip that would only allow the largest hawk moths with the longest tongues to reach the nectar – much as Angraecum and Aerangis species do with long spurs. Interestingly the species offers no reward for the moths and in common with many orchids relies on deceit pollination. Some interesting research indicates that the species produces a variety of scents presumably to aid with deceit pollination.
This attractive epidendrum species is found right through Central America and down through Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Out of flower it looks very like a uni-foliate cattleya but soon shows it’s unique character when the flower spikes appear.
The species is found high in trees in warm forest from 500-1000m altitude and we find that the plant succeeds well mounted or in baskets of course bark where it can dry out rapidly between watering. In pots we have found it prone to rot in the new growth from being kept too wet. It also enjoys bright light.