For my plant of the month article for April, I thought I would present you with a bit of a mystery. Maybe my readers can help me shed some light on this. I purchased this plant from an orchid show a few years ago labelled as Epidendrum floribundum. I’ve always rather liked Epidendrum, Encyclia and other Cattleya relatives. I admit that when I purchased it I had no idea what it would look like in flower. When I got home, I did a bit of research on the internet and found that Epidendrum floribundum appears to be a synonym for Epidendrum paniculatum. I was perfectly happy with this until the plant bloomed not too long afterwards.
It doesn’t look much like an Epidendrum to me! In fact if you Google Epidendrum paniculatum, you will see that the latter looks nothing like this at all. This appears to me to be an Encyclia of some description. It could even be a hybrid. I find it difficult to believe that there are that many unnamed ‘proper’ Encyclia hybrids out there, at least not this side of the Atlantic. That leaves us with an unknown species then. A friend of mine who worked in Singapore for a while informs me that we are probably dealing with Encyclia floribundum. Not that this helps a great deal since there isn’t a lot of information out there about this species at all. Encyclia presents a taxonomic minefield at the best of times, and one species looks much like another, and they are all very variable. We had better take a look at the rest of the plant then, hadn’t we?
Aside from my truly amateurish photography, we can see that the plant doesn’t look very Encyclia-like at all, and more closely resembles a short stemmed Epidendrum (in fact the plant very much reminds me of Epicyclia Serena O’Neill except that the flowers are smaller but more numerous). So maybe this brings us back to the possibility that it is a hybrid after all. More recently (but still a year ago), I found Epidendrum floribundum for sale in a German nursery I used to use as one of my suppliers when I was more involved in plant sales. As I was putting together an order at the time, I ordered a few plants, and they appear to be the same as my mystery plant. Consequently I have spare plants for sale.
Aside from the confusion over the name, this is a very lovely plant to grow. It is easy-going, grows well in my warm grow-room and is very generous with its flowers once it reaches a modest size. The cane height is gradually increasing, and this is its best flowering yet, producing a branching inflorescence bearing 32 flowers. As a bonus the flowers are very sweetly scented. The plant is rather on the untidy side, and the roots like to wander out of the pot, but provided the plant is healthy, I am happy to let them! A little less water when the plant is resting is a good idea, but it appears not to be quite as sensitive to watering at the wrong time of year as many Encyclia species (E. cordigera, I’m looking at you!)
My plant is due for repotting once it starts to show either new aerial growth or new roots (I forget which comes first on this plant), and I think it will be better in coarse bark chips as opposed to the medium chips in which it now grows. This might encourage the roots to stay in the pot.
At any rate, feel free to contact me if I have tempted you with this enigma, or if you have any answers for me!