Encylia alata – butterfly orchid

a specimen sized Encyclia alata grown in Metro Manila

Encylia alata [Bateman]Schlechter 1914

Synonyms *Epidendrum alatum Bateman 1840, Encyclia alatum

Common Name: Winged Encyclia , Butterfly Orchid

The genus name comes from Greek enkykleomai (“to encircle”), referring to the lateral lobes of the lip, which encircle the column.  There are about 200 species and varieties of this genus.

Flowers: the color of the flower mat range from light yellow to yellowish green (to maroon-brown) marked flowers with purple, whitish 3-lobed lip, band of yellow on margin of the frilled mid-lobe and purple striations, spicy fragrance.

Flower Size:  2 to 2 1/2″ [5 to 6.25 cm]

There can be diverse differences in flower morphology in this species most often in size and the shape of the lateral sides of the lip. It has a honey-sweet spicy smelling fragrance and they bloom in the spring through fall on an apical, up to 4 feet in height with long arching  branched inflorescence with many, variable in color and shape. The inflorescence may carry from 5 flowers to as many as 100 flowers for large specimen plant.  Flowers may last up to 3 weeks in perfect condition. The butterfly orchids bloom in early summer to late autumn.  Butterflies will take nectar at the small flowers, but are not pollinators of these plants. Pollination is performed by small bees, which can negotiate the complex column.

Plant Range:

This orchid may range from medium to large sized plant . Hot to warm growing species , when mature the plant may reach over 2 meters high . This orchid is found in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala,El Salvador , Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Belize occurring from sea level to 1,000 meters in elevation.  Growing on trees and occasionally on soil pockets.

This orchid species is easy to grow and there are a lot of orchid connoisseurs from all over the world, which grow this orchid species in their collection. In the Philippines, this orchid is becoming popular among orchid growers.  Other Asian countries like Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore this orchid is widely grown due to its fragrance.

Growing Media:

This orchid can grow in various media from coconut husk , charcoal, mounting on kakawate trees, live palm trees.

Fertilization:

One can try to fertilize them using water soluble fertilizers. These can be applied every two weeks intervals. For faster results, one can try slow release fertilizers and other other micro-nutrients


Light Conditions:

Partial Shade is defined as filtered light found beneath trees with high limbs. Partial shade usually offers some protection from direct afternoon sun.


Watering:

Water the orchid liberally when in active growth .

Pest and Diseases:

Pest: Spider Mites are small, 8 legged, spider-like creatures which thrive in hot, dry conditions (like heated houses). Spider mites feed with piercing mouth-parts, which cause plants to appear yellow and stippled. Leaf drop and plant death can occur with heavy infestations. Spider mites can multiply quickly, as a female can lay up to 200 eggs in a life span of 30 days. They also produce a web, which can cover infested leaves and flowers.

Prevention and Control:

Keep weeds down and remove infested plants. Dry air seems to worsen the problem, so make sure plants are regularly watered, especially those preferring high humidity such as tropicals, citrus, or tomatoes. Always check new plants prior to bringing them home from the garden center or nursery. Take advantage of natural enemies such as ladybug larvae. If a miticide is recommended by your local garden center professional or county Cooperative Extension office, read and follow all label directions. Concentrate your efforts on the undersides of the leaves as that is where spider mites generally live.

Pest : Mealybugs

Small, wingless, dull-white, soft-bodied insects that produce a waxy powdery covering. They have piercing/sucking mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Mealybugs often look like small pieces of cotton and they tend to congregate where leaves and stems branch. They attack a wide range of plants. The young tend to move around until they find a suitable feeding spot, then they hang out in colonies and feed. Mealybugs can weaken a plant leading to yellow foliage and leaf drop. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.

Prevention and Control:

Isolate infested plants from those that are not. Encourage natural enemies such as lady beetles in the garden to help reduce population levels of mealybugs.

Pest : Aphids

Aphids are small, soft-bodied, slow-moving insects that suck fluids from plants. Aphids come in many colors, ranging from green to brown to black, and they may have wings. They attack a wide range of plant species causing stunting, deformed leaves and buds. They can transmit harmful plant viruses with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Aphids, generally, are merely a nuisance, since it takes many of them to cause serious plant damage. However aphids do produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface growth called sooty mold.

Aphids can increase quickly in numbers and each female can produce up to 250 live nymphs in the course of a month without mating. Aphids often appear when the environment changes – spring & fall. They’re often massed at the tips of branches feeding on succulent tissue. Aphids are attracted to the color yellow and will often hitchhike on yellow clothing.

Prevention and Control:

Keep weeds to an absolute minimum, especially around desirable plants. On edibles, wash off infected area of plant. Ladybugs and lacewings will feed on aphids in the garden. There are various products – organic and inorganic – that can be used to control aphids. Seek the recommendation of a professional and follow all label procedures to a tee.

Additional notes:

This orchid is a must for orchid growers, easy and less maintenance.

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