This month, I’m featuring a lovely species which isn’t the easiest to get hold of, but seems quite easy to grow. Coelogyne usitana is a comparatively new species to cultivation, only having been described in 2001, after being discovered in the Philippines and named after its discoverer, Vimoor Usita. The newness to cultivation goes some way to explaining its scarcity, and I expect it will become more common in collections in the future. This species really does have a lot going for it. It is part of the Speciosae section of Coelogyne and shares a lot of characteristics with other members of that group. The most obvious of these similarities are the downward pointing flowers on drooping peduncles. In nature, this is an adaptation to a wet climate, and is said to prevent self-pollination. In cultivation, of course, this means that the plant really needs to be grown in a basket and hung up to enjoy the flowers properly. It is a warm grower, and I have read that it is one of the species most intolerant of cool temperatures (potentially becoming defoliated at temperatures of around 10oC), though I haven’t experimented with my plant. I have seen it described online as a small growing species, but this really isn’t my experience at all. The overall size of the plant seems to be quite large (larger than, for example, Coelogyne speciosa), with leaves easily being 12 to 18 inches in length. Other than its size, it is quite similar to Coelogyne speciosa, the taller and slimmer pseudobulbs being clumped together on the rhizome and topped with a single large leaf. Flower spikes are produced from the new growth as it is still unfurling, and curve down so that the flowers open beneath the foliage. The blooms are a greenish-cream colour with a dark coloured lip. In some specimens, it is said to be almost black, but my plant is more dark orange to chocolate brown.
My plant is relatively young as yet (flowering for the second time now under my conditions), and I have yet to see whether it has the ability to produce numerous new growths so as to produce a good clump with several spikes, all flowering at the same time.
It forms hybrids readily, the most famous of which is probably Coelogyne Lyme Bay, made by Burnham Nurseries and registered in 2006 A very dark-lipped form of Coelogyne speciosa was selected as the pod parent, and this cross has produced very favourable results. This hybrid has been re-made both on the continent and in Australia, though whether the outcome is similar, I cannot say. Further hybrids are being created on the continent, a couple of which have found their way into my collection, and these produce very large flowers indeed. Having mentioned the size of the plant earlier, it is worth noting here that this appears to be a trait it passes on to its hybrids, too, and sufficient space should be given over to them to reach specimen size.