Cattleya skinneri

Senior Social Hall, University of the Philippines -Los Baños, Laguna

During  the horticulture show,   I have encountered a great specimen -sized flowering Cattleya skinneri or Guarianthe skinneri .   I bought several  potted clumps of this particular species way back in 2004 during the 58th annual orchid show in Quezon City . However during the great torrential rains of ” Ondoy ” in 2009.  Most of my Cattleya species and hybrids were lost due to fungal infections. It wipe -out almost 85 percent of my Cattleya collections. Now i still have to fully recover from the disastrous fungal infection and what was left were a few  old cattleya  hybrids that our neighbor gave to me years ago.

Cattleya skinneri was one of the focal point of this year’s  horticulture show in Laguna

Most of the serious Cattleya growers would grow  and collect Cattleya skinneri  which is also the national flower of Costa Rica . This does not provide satisfaction among growers but also a source of parent plant for hybridization .  Among the serious Cattleya orchid collectors in the country would include Dr. Hernando ” Nani ” Perez , Ms. Vangie B. Go, Mr. Antonio Padilla,  Mr. Jun Golamco , Mr. Micheal Espeso , Mr. Vicente Chin Jr.  , Mrs. Mable Chua , Ms. Mary Ann-Wu ,  Mr. Emilio Yap Jr. , Dr. Elenita S. Binay ,  Mr. Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. ,  However this is just a short list of those people who collects this orchid type , while i have seen a lot of small time  orchid hobbyists in the provinces which had grown cattleyas  in their backyard.

Cattleya skinneri or Guarianthe skinneri entered in the recent horticulture show in Laguna

It is creme de la creme of the people who grew orchids. Most of the cattleyas are still expensive in the Philippine market .  While local orchid farms would still prefer sourcing rare and new selection of BLC , LC , SLC , BC  type from Bangkok, Thailand, Taiwan , Malaysia , Florida and even in their home land in Central and South America . I have heard several stories of some pilots , seaman  and balikbayans which have also brought home some cattleya seedlings from the long sojourns from the  Americas whenever they came home.

Unlike in the past decades, cattleya growing in the city is going to be difficult , with most people lacking space and time. In my case , our shrinking space in our garden and fungal infection which almost totally wiped- out my cattleya collection still in my mind whenever i see those flowering orchids during orchid shows. How i wish those friends and relatives that visited our house had taken care of those cattleya orchids which i gave them as gift.


This delightful small-flowered Cattleya species always produces an abundance of bright rose-lavender  while there are pure white and blue type of flowers. In its native habitat of Central America . It is as much a part of this holiday for me as poinsettias during Christmas season  or the traditional everlasting daisies . Because it is so easy to grow and flower, C. skinneri is one of the most rewarding of nature’s spring-flowering orchids.

Cattleya skinneri is native to Central America, where it thrives in seasonal mountain forests from just above sea level to about 5,000 feet (2,500 meters ). Its growing range begins in southern Mexico and extends through Guatemala and Honduras into El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It is one of the most common orchids found in Costa Rica and is so popular there, it has been named Costa Rica’s national flower.

Cattleya skinneri being sold in the commercial section

In the Philippines, majority of this orchid species would flower during the months of February, March , April and early May depending on the province and climatic condition. A short drying period and a cool weather will initiate the blooming of this orchid species.

Origin of the Name:

Cattleya skinneri produces from five to 12 flowers on a spike and usually has more than one lead even on a small plant, so the result is a marvelous display of flowers.

Cattleya skinneri was one of the earlier of the Cattleya species discovered  in 1836 — just after Cattleya mossiae. It was described as a new species in 1837 by the English botanist James Bateman in his book The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala (Tab XIII). Although Bateman had never been to Mexico and Guatemala, He was the world authority at the time on the orchids of these countries because of a man named Sir George Ure Skinner, who ran a trading company in Guatemala.

When Bateman was still a student at the Natural History Museum at Manchester, England. He noticed specimens of birds and insects Skinner had sent to the museum. He wrote to Skinner asking if he would send him specimens of orchids, and Skinner responded enthusiastically, sending box after box of plants he collected in the local countryside. At times, so many plants arrived that the commercial orchid company James Veitch eventually set aside a whole greenhouse exclusively for Skinner’s Central American orchids, and every private collection in Europe soon had their collection.

Cattleya X guatemalensis from personal collection of Ms. Vangie Go

There are a lot of color variation of the species and natural hybrids ,  Most sought after is Cattleya X guatemalensis  a natural hybrid between Cattleya skinneri and Cattleya aurantiaca / Guarianthe  aurantiaca .   The name was transferred to Guarianthe based on  phylogenetic studies of nuclear in DNA  studies in 2000 and 2003.

 different yellow variation of   – Cattleya aurantiaca or Guarianthe aurantiaca

Locally, I have seen some Cattleya X guatemalensis  orchids from the collection of Mrs. Vangie Go ,  Mr. Jun Golamco and Dr. Hernando Perez . However,  I still have to obtain one for my own collection. I used to  have the two color forms of Cattleya aurantiaca “yellow” and “orange” variety ,  sadly they were also wiped-out during the ” Ondoy ” Typhoon Kestsana onslaught in 2009.

array of Cattleya aurantiaca ” yellow ” and ” orange ” varieties

Still wanting to have another plant,  I haggle with my  “suki ”  loyal seller from Malvarosa orchids . I had to choose some non-flowering Cattleya skinnerii for my collection since there is a big price difference from the non-flowering cattleya and flowering ones. This is some sort of a highlight from visiting a garden show , having to part with a new set of orchids to be added in my collection or otherwise re-acquiring  a new collection.

References :

Boosey, Jane : 300 orchids : series and varieties in cultivation ISBN -13:978-1-554407-296-5 ( 2007)

Dressler and Higgins: “Guarianthe, a Generic Name for the “Cattleya” skinneri Complex” Lankesteriana 7(2003)37—38

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