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The Catasetinae

Pronunciation: kloh-WES-e-ah

Tribe: Cymbidieae

Subtribe: Catasetinae


The genus Clowesia was published by John Lindley based on Clowesia rosea in 1848. Reichenbach transferred the species to Catasetum in 1872 and so it remained until 1975. At that time C. H. Dodson published his revision in which he removed from Catasetum, eight species that bore bisexual or perfect flowers. He resurrected the genus Clowesia with Clowesia rosea as its type from the original description and transferred 4 other species from Catasetum to Clowesia. The remaining three species from Catasetum with perfect or bisexual flowers were placed in the newly established genus Dressleria. Clowesia are found at altitudes ranging from 200 to 1500 meters. It is an epiphytic genus of sympodial orchids that are found in warm, moist open canopy tropical trees, except Clowesia glaucoglossa found in one particular species of palm in one small area of southwest Mexico. Pseudobulbs are somewhat fusiform to conical in shape with thin veined leaves during the growth season. Like Catasetum and Cycnoches, the bulbs grow to maturity in 6 to 7 months and lose their leaves in a rest period. Some of the species bloom on new maturing growths, while others such as Clowesia rosea bloom from completely leafless pseudobulbs. The inflorescences emerge from the base of the pseudobulbs and are sharply pendent unlike the more arching, pendant inflorescences of Catasetum. There are two particularly beautiful and fragrant hybrids, Clowesia (Catasetum) Grace Dunn and Clowesia (Catasetum) Rebecca Northen. Because the International Orchid Registration Authority and the RHS do not recognize the genus Clowesia as valid, all Clowesia species and hybrids are still listed as Catasetum. The American Orchid Society judging system accepts Clowesia as a valid genus for species, so awards are now listed as Clowesia although the older awards are still listed under Catasetum. Because of the rules of registration, the A.O.S still lists the many Clowesia hybrids under Catasetum or the intergeneric hybrids using Catasetum. For example a hybrid of Clowesia and Cycnoches would be registered as Catanoches.


Number of species:

The World Monocot Checklist contains 8 accepted names (9/2007).



Mexico, 5 species; one species, Clowesia warscewiczii, from Central America to Ecuador and Venezuela, one species Clowesia amazonica from the Brazilian Amazon and Ecuador


Basic Culture (Individual orchids might require more or less of any of these conditions, refer to the specific orchid for more details)



Warm, although while resting can take quite cool temperatures almost to freezing.


Bright open shade with good air movement


During the growth period, maintain even moisture, high humidity and good air movement. After the bulbs mature, moisture can be reduced or stopped completely. While at rest, if the bulbs appear to be shriveling, you can lightly spray them. When the new growth appears and roots have formed, you may repot and begin to water and fertilize again. Like Catasetum and Cycnoches, the worst enemy of Clowesia are spider mites that come with hot, dry conditions with poor air circulation while the plants are in growth.


Use balanced or high nitrogen fertilizer while the plants are in growth. My remarks about fertilizing Cycnoches can be applied to Clowesia also.


Sphagnum in clay pots; medium-fine bark in clay or plastic pots; mounted in baskets or on tree fern, cork or driftwood with sphagnum at the roots. Hanging the pots or mounts is best because of the good air circulation this provides




Hybrid orchids are preferred over species for beginners to orchid culture. Species orchids are less tolerant of unfavorable conditions and unintentional neglect. Hybrid orchids are more forgiving and take advantage of traits from two or more species or other combinations of parents. These traits also include diverse growing conditions as well as spectacular blooms.


Additional Information



Below are details on individual orchids. This listing does not include all 8 recognized Clowesia species (The World Monocot Checklist). Orchids below are parents of hybrids that I am familiar with or awarded orchids from the Napa Valley Orchid Society Annual Show or the monthly Show and Tell winners.


Navigation Tip: Click on the name of an orchid (Bold Text) that you wish to explore further.


The Cymbidium Orchid

The Cymbidium Orchid (17)

(pronounced sym-BID-ee-um)


These orchids are prized for their long-lasting sprays of flowers, used especially as cut flowers or for corsages in the spring. There are two main types of cymbidiums - standards and miniatures. Where summer nights are warm (above 70 F), only miniatures can be recommended, because many are more tolerant of heat and able to flower in warmer weather.


Cymbidium, or boat orchid, is a genus of 52 evergreen species in the orchid family Orchidaceae. The new Latin genus name is derived from the Latin cymba meaning boat.


The Cymbidium in nature can be found in tropical and subtropical Asia (such as northern India, China, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Borneo) and northern Australia. The larger flowered species from which the large flowered hybrids are derived grow at high altitudes.


Cymbidium plants are sympodial and grow to a height of 60 cm and the racemes as high as 90 cm. The raceme grows from the base of the most recent pseudobulb. Each flower can have a diameter of 5 to 10 cm, according to the species. They bloom during the winter, and each plant can have up to fifteen or more flowers. The fantastic range of colors for this genus include white, green, yellowish-green, cream, yellow, brown, pink, and red [and orange] and black (and there may be markings of other color shades at the same time), but not blue. The flowers last about ten weeks. They have a waxy texture. The rounded sepals and petals have about the same dimensions.


There are fragrant varieties as well, notably the Chinese cymbidiums. They have been cultivated for thousands of years, especially in China. Cymbidiums became popular in Europe during the Victorian era. One feature that makes the plant so popular is the fact that it can survive during cold temperatures (as low as 7˚ C or 45˚ F) [Actually they will survive at temperatures below 32˚F for short periods and even as low as 28˚F].


The species Cymbidium hookerianum is considered a delicacy in Bhutan where it is traditionally cooked in a spicy curry or stew and called "olatshe" or "olachoto". It is sometimes confused with Cyclanthera pedata, another local delicacy (the nomenclature has not been clearly established; there are indications that "olatshe" usually refers to Cymb. and "olachoto" to Cycl., although not consistently).


additional reading and information


Cymbidium Society of America (CSA)

Golden Gate Cymbidium Society

Sacramento Valley Cymbidium Society




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