ghost orchid

Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata var. triandra)

Part of the Florida's Native and Naturalized Orchids Website

Classification:
  Kingdom:   Plantae - Plants
    Subkingdom:   Tracheobionta - Vascular Plants
      Superdivision:   Spermatophyta - Seed plants
        Division:   Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
          Class:   Liliopsida - Monocotyledons
            Subclass:   Liliidae - Subclass containing lily and orchid relatives
              Order:   Orchidales - Orchid order
                Family:   Orchidaceae - Orchid Family
                  Subfamily:   Epidendroideae -
                    Tribe:   Epidendreae - Cattleya tribe
                      Subtribe:   Laeliinae - Laelias and related.


Distribution Map:
Distribution map for Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata var. triandra)
Description:
Synonyms: Epidendrum cochleatum, Encycla cochleata, Anacheilium cochleatum

Summary: Plant a psedubulb-bearing epiphyte. Pseudobulbs elongate, eliptical and somewhat flattened, bearing one to two leaves. Flower stems come from the apex of the pseudobulb between the leaves. Flowering can last for several months, as a few flowers open in succession at a time. Flowers non-resupinate (lip borne uppermost) with the lip typically veined with dark purple. Tepals slender and green, tapering from beneath the lip. The floridian variety of this species has three anthers on the column instead of the usual two.

Common Name: Clamshell Orchid

Habitat: Epiphytic in swamps and hammocks in extreme south Florida.

Flowering season: September through February (peaking in December)

Images:
 
Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata) - Entire Plant
Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata) - Entire Plant
Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata) - Flower
Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata) - Flower
Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata) - Flower
Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata) - Flower
Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata var. triandra) - Plant
Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata var. triandra) - Plant
Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata var. triandra) - Flower
Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata var. triandra) - Flower
Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata var. triandra) - Flower
Clamshell Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata var. triandra) - Flower

Description:
 

This is a common species of orchid, found throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America

Historically, this has been one of the more common epiphytic orchids found in the southern swamps of Florida as well, primarily in the Big Cypress Swamp and adjoining areas. However, being such a conspicuous plant, it has been falling victim to poaching. Entire sloughs in the Fakahatchee Strand that once bore many flowering plants have been stripped bare in recent years, and several plants blooming just off the boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp have been poached as well. This is especially unfortunate, as this is one of the more common and easy-to-grow plants found in cultivation, often listed under one of its older names such as Encyclia cochleata or Epidendrum cochleatum.

It is still encountered with regularity as one of many epiphytic orchids that have found a toehold in the mild temperatures offered by the swamps in the Everglades and around. Plants consist of a cluster of pseudobulbs with one or several papery leaves. The flower stems are borne at the apex of the pseudobulbs, and open successively over several months. The lip of the flower resembles a clam shell, hence the common name. Many, however, have seized upon the tentacle-like dangling petals and sepals and have informally christened this the Octopus Orchid. This orchid is the national flower of Belize, where it is known as the "Black Orchid" due to the deep black-purple of the flowers (the Floridian form tends to be a lighter color).

Outside of Florida, the flowers have a single anther cap at the tip of the column, bearing two pollinia. The Floridian form has two additional anthers on each side of the column, each bearing an additional pollinium. It is believed that this allows the flowers to self-pollinate, where there is likely a dearth of natural pollinators in Florida.

It is certainly one of our more attractive orchids, with its handsome purple-and-green striped lip, as well as one of our most bizarre. If you are fortunate enough to encounter it in the wild, please leave the plants be and follow the links page on this site and find a vendor with this species for sale.

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