Guest Author - Susan Taylor
These two miniature Epidendrums from Mexico are a great addition to any collection. They bloom sequentially so that there are flowers open for most of the year. E. tortipetalum will form side branches and bloom on previous year's inflorescences for years. Epidendrums are one of the larger genera of orchids with more than 1,000 different species found throughout the Caribbean and Central America. Most have a cane like growing habit and are mostly epiphytes although some grow as lithophytes.
Epidendrum longipetalum generally only grows about 4 inches or 10 centimeters tall. The plant stem somewhat resembles a cane Dendrobium with two small leaves at the top. The flower inflorescence will emerge toward the beginning of the year and will begin to bloom in the Northern Hemisphere around March. The tiny flowers continue to grow as they age and will lengthen to 2 inches or 5 centimeters when mature. The flowers are greenish or pinkish with a slightly darker lip and the lower petals elongate to form a long, curled mustache. Some cultivars have twisted petals and others are just like hanging ribbons. Don't cut off the inflorescences unless there has been no budding in several months. I think they look just like a little old man.
The species is originally from Mexico where it grows in cloud forests so should be grown at intermediate temperatures of 52-80 degrees Fahrenheit, or 11-26 degrees Centigrade. They need bright diffuse light to bloom and will continue to bloom year round on a well grown plant. They require almost constant moisture to keep them happy.
Epidendrum tortipetalum is a somewhat larger version of longipetalum with correspondingly larger flowers. It was originally considered to be the same species as E. longipetalum, but in 1976 was recognized as a distinct species. The stems are much stronger and will make side branches each year so it is important not to cut any inflorescences until you are sure that they will not bloom again. The plant itself is approximately a foot or 30 centimeters tall with a long branching inflorescence 18 inches or 45 centimeters long and held high above the plant. The trailing petals for which the species is named are twisted and continue to grow as the flower matures.
E. tortipetalum is also indigenous to Mexico, found in conditions similar to its cousin. It requires cool to intermediate temperatures and a little more light than longipetalum to bloom. It will bloom year round under good conditions.