Botanical Name: Bulbophyllum (bulb-oh-FILL-um)
Etymology of the orchid genus' name: From the Greek words bulbos (bulb) and phyllon (leaf)
Number of recognized species: 2,000 orchid species and counting
Type species: Bulbophyllum nutans (Thouars) Thouars 1822
Origin/Distribution: Australia, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, and Papua New Guinea
Growing classification: Bulbophyllum orchids can be either sympodial, lithophyte, or epiphytes.
Blooming season: Mostly spring, summer, and autumn
Flower color: Bulbophyllum orchid blooms come in different colors, shapes, and sizes.
About Bulbophyllum Orchids
The Bulbophyllum orchid genus is deemed as the largest of all in the Orchidaceae family. Its genus name was derived from the Greek words bulbos (meaning bulb) and phyllon (meaning leaf).
It was first described by Louis-Marie Aubert Du Petit-Thouars in 1822, who was a respected French botanist who dedicated his lifework identifying exotic orchid plants from the islands of Madagascar, Mauritius, and Réunion.
Currently, there are over 2,000 identified orchid species in this genus and its allied genera. According to the American Orchid Society, some of the commonly encountered ones include Cirrhopetalum, Ione, Mastigion, Megaclinium, Rhytionanthos, and Trias.
Considered as a cosmopolitan orchid genus, Bulbophyllum orchid plants are native to Australia, Africa, South America, and Southeast Asian Countries, such as the Philippines and Thailand. There is also a great number of Bulbophyllum orchid species found in Papua New Guinea.
Orchid Plant Description
Bulbophyllum orchids can be either sympodial, lithophyte, or epiphytes. They can be spotted blooming in tropical rainforests or cloud forests. Bulbophyllum orchid plants range from small to medium in size with large pseudobulbs and one or two leaves that can grow as long as a meter in some species.
The flowers come in an extensive variety of unique shapes, sizes, and colors. Generally, the flowers of Bulbophyllum orchids are known to attract pollinators through a distinctive kind of smell, which may not always be pleasant. For example, while some species’ scent may be described as sweet and fruity, there are some infamous one, such as the Bulbophyllum beccarii orchid, which reportedly smells like a heap of rotting carcasses.
Popular Species of Bulbophyllum Orchids
Because this orchid genus has an insanely huge number of species, we will only talk about some of its most famous and most common orchid types.
- Bulbophyllum medusae or Medusa’s Bulbophyllum is named in honor of the iconic female character in Greek mythology, Gorgo Medusa. The thin and long lateral sepals of this orchid plant’s flower are envisioned as the snakes in Medusa’s head. This lowland orchid hails from most parts of Southeast Asia. Its orchid blooms vary from white to cream with occasional specks.
- Bulbophyllum beccarii orchid is one of the largest orchids known. It is a rare orchid native to Borneo.
- Bulbophyllum wedlandianum is a beautiful species from tropical Thailand and is a member of the Cirrhopetalum section of this genus.
- Bulbophyllum barbigerum is more popularly known as the Bearded Bulbophyllum. It is native in parts of West and Central Africa. It got its nickname from the hairy appearance of its flowers, which has a very nasty odor.
- Bulbophyllum longiforum is widely distributed in many parts of the globe. This includes tropical regions of Seychelles, Madagascar, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Australia.
Unfortunately, many species from this orchid genus are endangered and are threatened due to orchid poaching and habitat loss.
Orchid Care: Tips in Maintaining Bulbophyllum Orchids
Because Bulbophyllum orchids are originally from warm, tropical regions of the world, there is a great chance that it is going to grow well in parts of the country with similar conditions. This means that if you are planning to grow Bulbophyllum orchids in Los Angeles, it is not impossible to succeed.
Start your orchid growing journey with these helpful tips from orchid experts.
- Mimic the temperature of this orchid’s natural environment. As tropical orchids, Bulbophyllum will not tolerate frost during winter. They are guaranteed to do better in warm temperature ranging from 21 to 27 degrees Celsius. At night, a slight drop in temperature, especially during the dormant phase will help trigger reblooming. Somewhere around 6 to 10 degrees Celsius in the evening will help it to flower again.
- Give it plenty of bright, indirect light. Bulbophyllum orchids need light more than your Phalaenopsis orchids. It requires somewhere around 1,500 to 2,000-foot candles. An outdoor porch or balcony, or indoors near full-length windows that get a maximum amount of morning sun is the best spot for this orchid plant.
- Water daily or three times a week. Do not let potting material dry up. Most Bulbophyllum orchids have a shallow root system and love moisture. The American Orchid Society recommends watering mounted Bulbophyllum orchid plants daily and potted ones three to four times a week. Because this type of orchid comes from rainforests, it will appreciate wetter as opposed to dry conditions. However, every orchid is different. Observe your orchid plant and take care of it according to its response to your environment. Remember, overwatering has killed more orchids than underwatering.
- Maintain a high level of humidity, preferably at least 60 percent, every day. This can be a challenge if you do not have a greenhouse. You can always try simple hacks such as using a humidifier or putting your orchid plant in a shallow basin of water filled with pebbles.
- Feed weekly weakly. Fertilize once a week after each watering session with a balanced fertilizer at a muted strength.
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