Guest Author - Susan Taylor
Guest columnist Terri Lewin is a member of the American Orchid Society and the Niagara Frontier Orchid Society. She teaches horticulture at Niagara County Community College and is the curator of the orchid collection at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. She grows under lights at home and has a personal collection approximately 125 plants. This is a continuing series on miniature orchids she grows.
What a big name for such a small orchid! It was named for the man, Charles Schweinfurth, who discovered and catalogued a great number of orchids in South America. When signing papers he would always abbreviate his name to C.Schweinf, hence Cischweinfia.
Cischweinfia pusilla is the type flower for its genus, which means that it was the first flower found upon which all other members in the genus are compared to in order to classify them. It is found in Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia where it grows under warm to intermediate conditions below 1000 meters.
The pseudobulbs multiply rapidly, putting out new growths in all directions. The spikes emerge whenever the pseudobulbs are finished and are topped with maroon flowers tipped with green and a rusty orange lip with a large portion of white in the center. The flowers are approximately ¾” across with approximately 3-5 flowers per inflorescence. Bonus- it is fragrant!
This plant practically grows itself and is tolerant of a wide variety of conditions, happily adjusting to either clay or plastic. I have three: two in semi-hydroponics (see First Rays for more information.), and one in traditional bark and clay.
This species is often confused with the recently discovered Cischweinfia sheehanae , which looks quite similar, so when sourcing you may have to search under both names. Don’t get too fussed about the difference, Cisch. sheehanae differs only in the fact that it has a more tubular lip than Cisch. pusilla. The difference is of import only to taxonomists (biologists who specialize in the classification of organisms into groups on the basis of their structure and origin and behavior), and as of this writing the nomenclature is still up in the air.