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Angraecum sesquipedale

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Angraecum sesquipedale /ˌsɛskwɨpɨˈdl/, also known as Darwin's orchid, Christmas orchid, Star of Bethlehem orchid, and King of the Angraecums, is an epiphytic orchid in the genus Angraecum endemic to Madagascar.  

moderate to bright light
allow to dry between watering
50% is optimum
cool/intermediate temperature
blooms in February



Sue D. earned 3rd Best in Show at the 2015 NVOS Annual Show in March.




The International Orchid Register

Angraecum sesquipedale

Synonym Flag
This is not a synonym



SOURCE: The International Orchid Register







The Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia

Flower Size To 7" [to 16.5 cm] Spur to 14" [to 35 cm]

Common Name The One and a Half Foot Long Angraecum - Comet Orchid

This is a large sized, hot growing species from the island of Madagascar that has 1 to 6 fragrant blooms in the winter on shorter than the leaves, 12" [30 cm] long, bracteate, axillary inflorescence and is found at altitudes of 100 meters or less on sloping tree trunks and crotches of trees near the seashore and it is consistantly hot and has abundant rainfall year round that produce large, waxy, long-lived, fragrant flowers through the winter and is an evergreen epiphyte that needs even water and fertilizer and thrives if given ample air circulation. It has the common name of the 'Comet Orchid'. It has rarely straight, many leafed stems with distichous, ligulate, coriaceous, unequally bilobed apically leaves.

This species was made famous by Charles Darwin's prediction that there would be a pollinator out there that could reach to the bottom of the extremely long [up to 14" [35 cm] long] spur in the back of the flower. His prediction came true with the discovery of a long-tongued hawk moth, Xanthopan morganii praedicta Photo by Tony Watkinson, about 100 years later.


  • Aeranthes sesquipedalis[Thou]Lindley 1824
  • Aeranthus sesquipedalis[Thou]Lindley
  • Angorchis sesquipedale [Thou]O.Ktze. 1891
  • Angraecum bosseri Senghas 1973
  • Angraecum sesquipedale var. angustifolium Bosser & Morat 1972
  • Macroplectrum sesquipedale [Thou]Rolfe
  • Macroplectrum sesquipedale[Thou.] Pfitz. 1889
  • Mystacidium sesquipedale Rolfe 1904


  • W3 Tropicos
  • Kew Monocot list
  • IPNI
  • *Historie Particulier des Plantes Orchidees Recueilles Sur Trois Iles Australes d'Afrique Thouars 1822 drawing fide
  • Die Orchideen Schlechter 1915 photo fide
  • Atlas des Orchidees Cultivees Constantin 1920 as Macroplectrum sesquipedale drawing fide
  • Flora Of Madagascar Perrier 1939/1981
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 26 No 2 1957
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 27 No 10 1958 drawing
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 28 No 4 1959
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 33 No 3 1964
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 33 No 5 1964 photo
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 39 No 4 1970 photo
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 39 No 11 1970 drawing
  • Orchid Digest No 38 No 2 1974 photo fide
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 47 No 9 1978 photo
  • Orquideologia Vol 14 No 1 1979 drawing
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 49 No 10 1980 photo
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 50 No 9 1981 photo
  • Orchid Digest Vol 46 No 3 1982 photo fide
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 52 No 9 1983 photo
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 53 No 7 1984 photo
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 54 No 2 1985 photo
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 55 No 2 1986 photo
  • Die Orchideen 3 Auflage Bd 1 Sonderabdruck aus Schlechter Brieger, Maatsch and Senghas # 48-49 Vandeae 1986 drawing/ photo fide
  • Die Orchideen 3 Auflage Bd 1 Sonderabdruck aus Schlechter Brieger, Maatsch and Senghas # 48-49 Vandeae 1986 as A bosseri photo fide
  • Manual of Cultivated Orchids Bechtel, Cribb, Laurent 1992
  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Orchds Pridgeon 1992
  • Orchid Digest Vol 57 No 2 1993 photo fide
  • Orchid Digest Vol 58 No 2 1994 photo fide
  • Manual of Orchids Stewart 1995
  • Encylopedia of Cultivated Orchids Hawkes 1965 drawing fide
  • Flora's Orchids Nash and La Croix 2005
  • Cultivated Angraecoid Orchids Of Madagascar Hillerman & Holst 1986
  • Simon & Schuster's Guide to Orchids Fanfani & Rossi 1988
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 68 No 5 1999 photo
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 71 No 5 2002 drawing
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 72 No 9 2003 photo
  • Boletim CAOB #52 2003
  • Botanica's Orchids Laurel Glen 2004
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 75 No 1 2006 photo
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 75 No 5 2006 photo
  • AOS Bulletin Vol 77 No 12 2006 photo
  • Angraecoid Orchids Stewart, Hermans, Campbell 2006
  • Australian Orchid Review Vol 72 No 6 12/07-1/08
  • Orchids of Madagascar Hermans 2007 photo fide
  • Field Guide to the Orchids of Madagascar Cribb & Herman 2009 photo fide


SOURCE: The Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia



Orchid Care Tips


The Angraecum orchids, or Comet Orchids, are a very interesting genus of plants. Most come from Africa or Madagascar, though a few species come from other places. The most famous species is the Christmas Orchid, Angraecum sesquipedale. These plants are monopodial, so there's a single stem which grows upward with alternating leaves, and flower stems and roots emerge from just above the leaves. Occasionally the stem will branch. (Some species do this more than others.) They generally grow as epiphytes, but a small number of species grow lithophytically as well. Vegetatively, the plants vary widely; some are very small, others are very large; some grow upright, others hang downward. It's very hard to generalize, other than to say that they are all monopodial. They are pollinated by moths: the white color of most species makes them more visible at night (most moths are nocturnal), and the flowers are also fragrant at night. (Both of these adaptations to moth pollinators are also common in Brassavola orchids, a conspicuous example of convergent evolution that Charles Darwin didn't know about during his famous investigation of Angcm. sesquipedale.) Some species have one flower per inflorescence, while others produce several.


Angcm. equitans
Image courtesy of scott.zona
Distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


Lighting needs vary; most like intermediate lighting, a bit greater than you'd use for Phalaenopsis, but some do well with high lighting similar to Cattleya or Vanda.

The species come from enough different habitats and altitudes that there is some variation in temperature requirements, but most do best at intermediate temperatures, in the lower 70's Fahrenheit during the day (21-25C), and cooling by 10-15°F (6-8C) at night.

They like good humidity of 50-70%. This is more important for plants grown mounted on slabs of bark, as their roots are more exposed than plants in pots.

Water these orchids just as their potting mix dries out, or as it approaches dryness when the plant is in bloom. They like to dry out relatively quickly, so use a well-drained mix that doesn't retain too much moisture; medium or coarse fir bark works well. Some people use a more moisture-retaining medium such as sphagnum moss, but in a clay pot.

SOURCE: Orchid Care Tips 












Orchids Limited


The famous Darwin orchid, native to the island of Madagascar. Large white flowers with up to 12 inch long spurs (nectary), this is the flower which Darwin predicted a moth with a 12" proboscis would be the pollinator of. Years later, it was discovered to be true as the moth called Xanthopan morganii was found to be the official pollinator. Very nice plants that are flowering size. We created these from seed in 2007. 






Angraecum sesquipedale is native to Madagascar and will grow in conditions similar to Cattleya. It is also known as the "Star of Bethlehem" orchid because of the large star shaped, white flowers that emerge every year in December. Charles Darwin observed this plant in the late 1800's and thought there had to be a large moth with a 13 inch long proboscis that pollinated this flower. The nectary on this flower can be over a foot in length. Over 50 years later this moth was discovered. Angraecum sesquipedale is a superb orchid and not difficult to grow, it is long lived and will reward the grower with flower displays that will only get better as the plant gets larger. The plants offered are over 20 years old.


This plant prefers medium light conditions (2,500 to 3,500 foot candles). When growing on a windowsill, a bright east or south exposure is necessary. Grow at 4 feet under bulbs when growing under High Pressure sodium lights. When growing under fluorescent bulbs, this plant can be placed about a foot or two below the bulbs.


50% or higher is ideal. The use of room humidifiers or humidity trays will aid this cause.


It is best to use rain, distilled or reverse osmosis water. Municipal water with a pH of 7.5 or lower can also be used. Water as the mix just dries out, when in bloom water as the medium approaches dryness.


We highly recommend Green Jungle Orchid Food, especially formulated to work with rain, distilled, reverse osmosis water or water low in alkalinity. Fertilize with Green Jungle every time you water.


Or, use GrowMore 20-10-20 Ureafree for municipal or well water. Use at the rate of ½ teaspoon per gallon. If using GrowMore with rain, distilled, or reverse osmosis water, add back in 5 - 10% municipal or well water to supply the necessary calcium and magnesium. Fertilize every other watering in the summer and every third watering in the winter.


This plant blooms in the winter, usually in mid to late December. The pure white flowers are large, from 7 to 10 inches in size. They are waxy, thick, and fragrant, but only at night. It can produce from 2 to 6 flowers per stem. The flowers usually last two to three months. The unusual aspect of these flowers is the large 10 to 13 inch nectary attracting a very large moth (in nature) at night for pollination.


Repot this plant about once every two years or when the mix has broken down. Larger plants do best in clay pots with a medium orchid bark mix. These plants don't like to have the roots disturbed so be careful and try not to crack or damage any of the good roots. Allow the root system to stay dry for the first week to 10 days after repotting. This will allow any damaged roots to heal before water is applied. This will help prevent fungal infections.  


SOURCE: Orchids Limited 



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