|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Laelia (meaning uncertain). Orchidaceae. A useful and attractive group of orchids, mostly with large, showy flowers borne singly or in two- to many-flowered racemes, which arise from the top of one- to two- leaved pseudobulbs. The plants greatly resemble cattleyas and differ only by the presence of eight perfect pollen masses instead of four.
Leaves oblong, coriaceous or fleshy, not plicate: pseudobulbs terminating the annual growth, ovate, clavate, fusiform or st.-like, long or short, consisting of 1 to several thickened internodes, or of slender and quill-like form with merely a small bulbous swelling at base, sheathed with scales and bearing 1 or 2 lvs. at the summit: sepals subequal, free, spreading; petals wider and sometimes longer, spreading; all usually plane; labellum free from the base of the column, more or less distinctly 3-lobed, the lateral lobes short, erect, folding over the column; middle lobe long, expanded, lanceolate-ovate, etc.; column concave in front, and thus narrowly 2-winged on the edges; pollinia 8, 4 in each locule; scape terminal, long or short, bracted.— About 30 species, dispersed in the maritime provinces of Mex. and Guatemala and in S. Brazil. No species is common to the two widely separated regions. A single species, L. monophylla, inhabits the mountains of Jamaica. In their native homes the plants are often found clinging to bare rocks and trees, where they are exposed to the full force of the tropical sun, and, in the wet season, to daily drenching rains. Some of the species grow at great altitudes. Thus, L. autumnalis var. furfuracea, is always found in alpine regions at elevations of 7,500-8,500 ft
Laelia may be conveniently divided into groups, as follows:
Group I (species 1-10).—Pseudobulbs rounded, pyriform or ovate. The plants of this section are medium- sized, with the pseudobulbs terminating each year's growth, sessile at intervals on the rhizome, and sheathed at least at first with bract-lvs. The scape, except in L. grandiflora, is long and slender, erect, nodding or sub- horizontal, and bears at its end 1 or 2 fls. (L. anceps), or a raceme of 2-7 fls. (L. albida). L. grandiflora, placed here on account of its thickened pseudobulbs, bears greater resemblance to the members of the next group.
Group II (species 11-13).—Pseudobulbs short-cylindrical, st.-like, or swollen-jointed, i. e., consisting of several internodes and sheathed with bracts. These plants are of dwarf habit, bearing 1-2 very large fls. on short scapes, so that the top of the fl. scarcely exceeds the lvs., which are oblong, about 6 in. long, and leathery.
Group III (species 14-23).—Pseudobulbs long- oblong, fusiform or clavate, tapering below to a sheathed and jointed stalk. This group contains the largest and most showy laelias. The pseudobulbous sts. are tall and tufted, a foot or more in length, forming robust, compact, almost bushy plants. The flowering sts. of L. superbiens are said to attain a height of 12 ft. The racemes bear 3-7 large, handsome fls.
Group IV (species 24-26).—Pseudobulbs slender, reed-like and tufted. clothed with scales and often somewhat swollen at base. This group includes a few species which are very distinct on account of their bright scarlet or orange-colored fls. and slender, reed-like pseudobulbs. L. monophylla is perhaps the smallest of all laelias, being scarcely over 6 in. high, with pseudobulbs about as thick as a crow-quill. One variety of L, cinnabarina has purple fls.
Cultivation of laelias. (E. O. Orpet.)
These orchids have ever held an important place in gardens, and were it not for the trifling generic distinction of having double the number of pollen-masses of the cattleya, they would have been known as a part of the last named, the ease with which both have been hybridized even from the beginning proving the close affinity; and one authority at least is willing to merge the two, were it not for the mixing up it would cause in garden nomenclature. The Brazilian species, L. purpurata and L. crispa, are strikingly beautiful, easy of culture, and are long-lived in gardens. These were the first to be used by the hybridist, and the multiple crosses made since, with the later addition of L. tenebrosa, show evidence of the gorgeous coloring of the labellum due to the laelia parentage.
It has always been the impression that the Brazilian laelias require very much warmth to enable them to grow well. This has been proved to be an error, as stronger growth is made in an intermediate temperature. The plants get an absolute rest in winter, flower better and grow stronger when kept at a temperature of about 50° in winter.
The Mexican kinds that mostly flower in midwinter, such as L. anceps and its white forms, will do equally well in a similar house, but are best grown outdoors in summer in the partial shade of overhanging trees, giving a spraying of water overhead at evening of each hot day. This has been found to be the only way to get the white forms to bloom freely, as they need special treatment and thorough ripening to secure good results. Removal indoors should take place before frost; cool nights seem to invigorate them, but while they experience slight frosts in Mexican uplands, it is harmful here. These laelias make an abundance of roots, and the plants should be kept off the ground to avoid the danger of slugs. If these gain access, soak the pots or baskets in water for an hour and the slugs will appear and can be caught.
The repotting of laelias must be done in early spring, or just before the appearance of the new bunches of roots at the base of the growths. Native-born species have a regular way of living, but the hybrids have a go-as-you-please habit, due perhaps to their mixed origin, that makes the repotting an operation that lasts throughout the year. Flowers are produced at all seasons, while, with introduced plants, their blooming is as fixed as the days of the year. This makes it hard to make a rule when to repot or separate plants; but, should the roots begin to get outside the receptacle, it is wise to give the plants more space. Good firm osmundine is the best material, as these are strictly epiphytal plants. Imported specimens are received with mats of dwarf polypodium attached, and these often grow with the plants in cultivation, giving a clue to the best way to treat them afterward. The other Mexican species, L. Gouldiana, L. autumnalis and L. albida, are not so durable in gardens as some others. They are most valuable midwinter-flowering orchids; they need similar culture as that given to L. anceps, but have to be replaced by new specimens after a few years, as they are not permanent.
There are many pretty dwarf-growing species, L. praestans, L. Dayana, L. pumila, L. grandiflora, L. Jongheana and others, that require extra care to keep them in health, and this care is largely in the matter of moisture. The plants are small, need shallow pans and to be suspended close to the roof glass where they dry out speedily, and unless moisture is given regularly, the health of the plants soon weakens. The drying out is desirable, for the plants experience this on rocks or trees in their native habitat, but there they have the benefit of the night dews that amount to a shower of moisture; this is easily imitated by spraying over the plants each dry evening. The roots will take this up during the night, and be fortified for the succeeding day. If one examines the aerial roots of L. anceps, they will be found to be in segments, some longer than others, the longer ones being those formed on a dull or wet day when evaporation was slower and the tender- growing tips could grow longer. This is suggestive in a cultural way. The following names must be sought under Laeliocattleya: L. amanda, Brysiana, Dominiana, Dormaniana, elegans, ezoniensis, Nyleptha, prasiata, Schilleriana, Turneri.CH
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- Laelia albida Bateman ex Lindl., 1839 (Mexico).
- Laelia anceps Lindlm., 1835 (Mexico to Guatemala).
- Laelia anceps subsp. anceps (Mexico to Guatemala). Pseudobulb epiphyte
- Laelia anceps subsp. dawsonii (J.Anderson) Rolfe, 1922 (Mexico - Guerrero, Oaxaca). Pseudobulb epiphyte
- Laelia aurea A.Navarro, 1990 (Mexico - Durango, Sinaloa, Nayarit).
- Laelia autumnalis (Lex.) Lindl., 1831 (Mexico).
- Laelia crawshayana Rchb.f., 1883 (Mexico - Jalisco).
- Laelia eyermaniana Rchb.f., 1888 (N. & W. Mexico).
- Laelia furfuracea Lindl., 1839 (Mexico - Oaxaca).
- Laelia gouldiana Rchb.f., 1888 (Mexico - Hidalgo).
- Laelia rubescens Lindl., 1840 (Mexico to C. America).
- Laelia speciosa (Kunth) Schltr., 1914 : Mayflower orchid (Mexico).
- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963