Fast Facts Brassavola Orchids
Botanical Name: Brassavola Orchid (bra-sah-VOH-luh)
Common name: Lady of the Night orchid
Number of recognized species: 20 to 24 recognized species
Origin: Tropical America from Mexico through Central America and the West Indies to Brazil and Argentina.
Blooming season: Summer to fall season
Color: White, pale yellow, lime (orchid species)
Growing classification: Mostly epiphyte, sometimes lithophyte
Brassavola Orchid Plant Description
Brassavola orchid plants are hard to miss because of their unique star or heart-shaped flowers that last a long time. Brassavola orchid blooms are typically around 2 to 6 inches in diameter, which give off an irresistibly sweet and citrus scent that can only be experienced nocturnally or at night and almost magically disappears at sunrise. Blooms are always white, but some may come with colorful spots.
The night-shift fragrance and the standout white color are both common feats for flowers pollinated by moths. Brassavola orchids are pollinated by big sphinx months, according to the book Orchids of Tropical America, which find their scent and color appealing in the dark.
Although small compared to other orchids, such as Cattleya and Phalaenopsis, with large eye-catching blooms, Brassavola orchids are equally beautiful and can display several blooms many times a year. Its lips have yellow-green base curls around the club-shaped column that appear to have little wings. Secretly concealed inside each flower is a long nectar tube.
It has slender, pseudobulbs that look like stems, which are commonly 12 inches long, covered in a sheer paper-like layer at the base. Each Brassavola orchid pseudobulb has a single leathery leaf that can be quite long and tend to droop down.
Because of their fuss-free and low-maintenance nature, it’s no wonder why Brassavola orchids have become a popular choice for many orchid growers, whether old-timers or newbies.
Origin of Brassavola Orchids
The Brassavola orchid genus is part of the Orchidaceae family and belongs to the Epidendreae tribe and Laeliinae subtribe. It was first formally described and named by Robert Brown, a Scottish botanist most also known for his discovery of the Brownian motion, or the movements of microscopic particles. It’s said to be named in honor of Antonio Musa Brassavola, a prominent Italian botanist.
According to the American Orchid Society, there are currently 20 recognized Brassavola orchid species by the World Monocot Checklist. On the contrary, it’s 24 orchid species based on Kew Science.
All of which are indigenous in tropical America, including Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Jamaica, Bolivia, Central America, to West Indies. They are usually found growing in their natural habitat in coastal forests, mangroves, and low- to middle-elevation mountain forests.
The Brassavola orchid genus consists of Latin American epiphytes that are closely linked to orchid plants in the Cattleya and Laelia genera.
Brassavola Orchid Species
The orchid species from the Brassavola orchid genus are grouped into four subgenera:
Brassavola sect Brassavola
Created by H.G. Jones in 1969, this section has only one orchid species.
- Brassavola cucullata - Hooded brassavola, also known as the Daddy Longlegs orchid. It can be found in Mexico to northern South America. This orchid species was first described by Carl von Linne in 1763 as Epidendrum cucullatum. He changed it later in 1813 when the Brassavola orchid genus was introduced.
Brassavola sect. Sessilabia
This section was created by Rolfe in 1902.
- Brassavola fasciculata
- Brassavola filifolia
- Brassavola flagellaris
- Brassavola gardneri
- Brassavola martiana
- Brassavola perrinii
- Brassavola reginae
- Brassavola retusa
- Brassavola revoluta
- Brassavola rhomboglossa
- Brassavola tuberculata – This Brassavola orchid species was actually taken from its native land in Brazil and shipped to Liverpool, England in 1828. B. tuberculata has spider-like nocturnally wonderfully smelling blooms that can go from pale yellow or lime. Typically mounted on bark or a slab of cork, a mature plant of this type of Brassavola orchid can bloom in great quantities.
Also Read: Are You Allergic to Orchids?
Brassavola sect. Cuneilabia
This section was created by Rolfe in 1902.
- Brassavola gillettei
- Brassavola grandiflora
- Brassavola harrisii
- Brassavola subulifolia
- Brassavola venosa
- Brassavola nodosa – More fondly known as the Lady of the Night orchid, B. nodosa is famous in Latin America for its evening perfume. It has three-inch white flowers with little purple specks on the lip, which can be greenish-white. Unlike other Brassavola orchid species, B. nodosa rarely goes on dormancy and blooms all year.
Brassavola sect. Lateraliflorae
This section was created by H.G.Jones in 1975.
- Brassavola acaulis
Newly registered species since 2014 of unknown subgenus:
- Brassavola angustata
- Brassavola ceboletta
- Brassavola xerophylla Archila
Brassavola Cultivars and Hybrids
- Brassocattleya Binosa – A cross between Brassavola nodosa and Cattleya bicolor
- Brassolaelia Citron Star – A cross between Brassavola nodosa and Laelia gloediana
- Brassolaeliacattleya – A product of Brassavola, Laelia, and Cattleya
Also Read: How to Maintain Your Orchids Indoors
Brassavola Orchids in Los Angeles
As is true for other orchid genera from the tropical Americas, spotting a thriving Brassavola orchid plant in the country is not impossible.
If you ever find yourself wandering around Washington D.C. and if you’re a self-confessed orchid aficionado yourself, a day trip to the Smithsonian Gardens should definitely be on your itinerary. It is home to a rich collection of nearly 9,000 live exotic orchid plants, including a throng of Brassavola orchids for sure, from different parts of the globe.
Seeing Brassavola orchids in Los Angeles is easy, too. Many of our local parks and botanical gardens display gorgeous orchid species for public viewing. Our favorites are the:
- Arboretum of Los Angeles County
- Descanso Gardens
- South Botanic Garden
Do you want to bring home your very own Brassavola orchids blooming for your personal viewing pleasure? Go for it. Thank heavens, L.A. is always bright and relatively never too hot or cold for a long time, making it a perfect landscape for collecting and growing tropical orchid plants.
Also, check Orchid Republic’s stunning orchid arrangement collection. Located conveniently in the heart of Sherman Oaks, Orchid Republic offers same-day flower delivery anywhere in Los Angeles and Orange County.
Orchid Care: How to Grow and Maintain Brassavola Orchids
Brassavola orchids are said to be for beginners. Find out what kind of TLC a Brassavola orchid plant needs from you.
How much light?
Brassavola orchids crave intense bright light. It wouldn’t even mind if it gets hit with direct sunshine in the morning. A south-facing windowsill or a front porch that gets ample amount of sunlight early in the day are some of the best spots we recommend.
How frequently should I water this orchid plant?
The safest answer to this is it depends. Check what potting medium your orchid plant comes with. Generally, Brassavola orchid plants that are mounted can be watered several times a week, because these tend to dry out faster and don’t hold much water. However, if your Brassavola orchid is planted on a pot, watering generously once a week would be sufficient. If it’s in a terracotta pot, you can soak it in a basin filled with water. These types of pot can be permeated with water and therefore somehow prevents the plant from getting parched dry.
What type of temperature does it need?
As it’s a tropical orchid plant, moderate to warm temperatures are good for Brassavola orchids and will even make them bloom faster. It needs high humidity of 40 to 70 percent.
What type of potting or planter should I use for this orchid plant?
Brassavola orchids look especially stunning in hanging baskets or pots or when they are mounted.
How often should I feed this orchid?
The AOS recommends giving Brassavola orchids fertilizer every couple of weeks during its active growing phase. Do not forget to do it during a watering session to flush out the salt accumulation.
Orchids of Tropical America: An Introduction and Guide, By Joe E. Meisel, Ronald S. Kaufmann, Franco Pupulin
Ortho's All About Orchids, By Elvin McDonald