It is always gratifying to come home from a trip and see orchids that are not only alive, but blooming. The ones that greeted me after this summer’s vacation were Cattleya bicolor, Cattleya jenmannii, and a new one, Ansellia africana This plant has been sitting in the greenhouse for several years doing nothing, so it was a surprise to see it burst out into a big spray of bright yellow flowers with a lot of dark brown spots – a semi-abstract leopard print.
The flowers are lightly fragrant, somewhat like a combination of woody phenol and vanilla! I’m not sure this would make a very good perfume, but it’s an interesting scent.
This species is native to a good part of tropical Africa. The plant is reasonably attractive, looking sort of like a dendrobium, with tall, upright, succulent canes and broad, elongate leaves. It seems to take a lot of abuse - heat, cold, drought, and general neglect.
According to the IOSPE (Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia), the pseudobulbs have traditionally been used for medicinal purposes, as an emetic, cough remedy, and to “cure madness”. Zulu lore has it that wearing the pseudobulbs can prevent an ex-lover from having children. Regardless of any therapeutic value, it’s a beautiful plant.
[Photos are mine. If you look closely, you can see seed pods starting to grow.]