Today we have one of our favourite cattleyas. This small growing Brazilian species is native to a very restricted range in the Organ Mountains in Rio de Janiero state.
The species has an interesting history as it didn’t fit with the original characteristics for cattleya with 4 pollinia, as it has six or eight, despite being close in all other ways to the local bifoliate cattleya species, and so was called Laelia dormaniana (Laelia was defined as 8 pollinia). Since it has been realised that number of pollinia is fairly plastic in evolution, and not a good defining feature, and so Cattleya dormaniana it is.
The natural habitat of Cattleya dormaniana is very wet forest at 600-1000m close to the coast where the forest is heavily shrouded in mists. We visited this habitat on our school visits to Brazil and were struck by the dripping damp of the forest every morning even in the dry season. To recreate these conditions we grow the species in our Cool Americas section where the plant hangs in a basket and is watered most days giving damp but free drain ing conditions. The flowers emerge in the depths of winter and the deep pink lip against the brown petals and sepals is a truly lovely colour combination.
I have been so struck by Cattleya dormaniana’s colour scheme that I replicate it every week on the day that I wear my brown batik shirt with a deep pink tie. It is always best to take inspiration from evolution’s diversity.