Orchids which are found growing wild in Central America, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil and Costa Rica. They are without pscudobulbs but have evergreen leaves set closely together, from the bases of which the flower stems, generally single-flowered, are produced. Many ol the Masdevallias arc of botanical interest only, but a number have brilliantly colored flowers, while some are attractive by reason of their curious shape. In many kinds the extremities of the sepals are attenuated into tails as long as, and often longer than, the other parts of the Mowers. Masdevallia, which belongs to the family Orchidaceae, commemorates Dr. Masdevall, a Spanish botanist and physician.
Orchids for a Cool Greenhouse. Masdevallias thrive in cool greenhouses; it is sufficient if, in winter, the night temperature is 55 degrees, or a few degrees lower in severe weather. A moist atmosphere is necessary. Cool summer conditions are essential for good results. Shading must be provided beginning early in the year, as strong sunlight is prejudicial to the plants. Throughout the warm weather the benches and Moor of the greenhouse should be damped frequently and the plants may be syringed lightly.
Even in winter the atmosphere must be moist. Free ventilation is required in mild weather, and in summer the ventilators may be left open day and night. Water must be given at the roots throughout the year: abundantly in summer, and enough to keep the compost moist in winter.
Masdevallias are often affected by a black spot or blotch on the lower surface of the leaves. This may be taken as indicative of wrong conditions, a stagnant atmosphere, incorrect watering or drafts of cold air.
A suitable potting compost consists of two parts osmunda fiber, finely cut, and two parts of sphagnum moss, well mixed; a few decayed Oak or Beech leaves may be added. Drainage must be free. Pots or pans may be used—the latter are better for the smaller-growing kinds. The Chimaera section of Masdevallia (described later) should be grown in pans which can be suspended from the roof.
Repotting should be done early in the year, in February or March, if the plants are not in flower.
The showiest kinds are Masdevallia coccinea and its varieties. The flower stems, 6-9 in. high, bear only one flower each; the two lower sepals have short tails, the upper one is narrower with a longer, reflexed tail. The color varies from white to crimson, so much so that a large number are distinguished by names. Spring is the flowering season but blooms are often seen in late autumn. Masdevallia militaris (ignea) is similar in habit, but the flowers are cinnabar red.
An insect-trapping kind, Masdevallia muscosa, has small leaves and yellowish-green flowers; the lip is large in proportion, closes quickly on being touched, and will retain an insect for about twenty minutes. Masdevallia xipheres, of which the flowers are reddish-brown, exhibits similar action. In Masdevallia ephippium, often known as Masdevallia Trochilus, the lower sepals are cup-shaped, of chestnutbrown color: the tails are 3-4 in. long and bright yellow. It flowers in autumn and winter. Masdevallia elephanticeps, Masdevallia pachyantha, Masdevallia Mooreana and Masdevallia gargantua have large flowers on short stems and emit a fetid odor. Masdevallia tovarensis has white flowers, two to five on erect stems about 6 in. high; the old stems often produce flowers in the following winter.
The Finest of All. Masdevallia Veitchiana is the finest of all, with large open flowers, vermilion flushed with purple; the sepal tails are very short. It blooms chiefly during May but often at other seasons. Other notable kinds are Masdevallia caudata, Masdevallia corniculata, Masdevallia Schroederiana, Masdevallia inflata and Masdevallia torta. Masdevallia Chimaera has 3-in.-long tails to the sepals. The flowers, not counting the tails, are 3 in. across, yellowish in color and thickly spotted with dark red. There are numerous varieties. The blooms open chiefly in spring and summer. Others in this section, but with smaller flowers, are Masdevallia bella, Masdevallia trinema, Masdevallia Chestertonii, and Masdevallia vespertilio.