Guest Author - Susan Taylor
This is one of the largest genera of orchids with approximately 1,200 species. It comprises species from all tropical and semi-tropical parts of the Americas and is diverse in its size and its flowers. The most popular of the species are those in the mini- and small-size range and they can be grown rather easily with the right conditions. Most are from cloud forests and require cool conditions to flower well, although several well known ones are intermediate growers. They all need high humidity and good air circulation.
Many growers use these plants in terrariums since they love the high humidity and because many plants can be accommodated in a fairly small space. There are many mini-sized Pleurothallis species which are perfect for this type of culture.
Pleurothallis flexuosa is one of the few warm growing species in the genus. It grows only about 4 inches, or 10 centimeters, tall. The flowers are held above the leaves and follow each other up the inflorescence one at a time. The yellow and purple spotted flowers, resembling a snake mouth, are covered with interesting white wool-like hairs and flowers are produced all year. The species is found in wet forests in Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.
Pleurothallis barbulata is a truly tiny plant which rarely grows over 1 inch, or 2 centimeters, tall. The flowers are bright orange with a darker red or purple overlay and are quite large for the size of the plant. This species is found from Mexico through Ecuador and also is a year round bloomer. It also is one of the warmer growing species needing warm to intermediate conditions which are generally easy to accommodate.
My favorite is Pleurothallis grobyi which has purplish leaves about 3 inches, or 6 centimeters, tall with bright yellow flowers held on inflorescences just above the top of the leaves. It is an intermediate grower although some sources say it does better in cooler conditions. The species is found in lower cloud forests from Mexico to South America and occasionally in the West Indies.
For those who specialize in these plants, there is an organization dedicated to the whole alliance. For more information, visit Pleurothallid Alliance.
As always, here is a listing of my favorite orchid vendors to help you find the plants you are looking for:
Carter and Holmes
First Ray’s Orchids
Oak Hill Gardens
Parkside Orchids Nursery
Tropical Orchid Farm