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Laelia autumnalis Autumn Flowering


Autumn Flowering, Laelia autumnalis


Laelia autumnalis Lindl. 1831  Photo courtesy of Lourens Grobler

Common Name Autumn Flowering Laelia - In Mexico - Flor de los Muertos

Flower Size 3 to 4" [7.5 to 10 cm] Fragrant

Found in Mexico in the central to southern mountains at elevations of 1500 to 2600 meters as a small to medium sized, cold to warm growing epiphyte or lithophyte, found on scrubby oaks and mossy rocks with bright light, a winter dormancy and night coolness with 2 to 3, leathery, lanceolate leaves per ovoid, subconical, to pyriform, tapering, curved, ridded and furrowed pseudobulb that blooms in the fall and winter in cultivation on an erect, stout, red colored, 2 to 3' [60 to 90 cm] long, apical, covered with scale-like floral bracts, several to many flowered inflorescence with fragrant, waxy, long-lasting, color variable flowers.

The villagers of the central highlands of Mexico on the 1st and second of November celebrate All Saint's Day and the Day of the Dead. On these days many families make small candy images of pigs, cows, horses, skulls fruit and other familiar objects created from the pseudobulbs of this species and Laelia speciosa. It is an ancient process handed down through the generations. The Pseudobulbs are sliced into thin pieces that are then ground in the same way as flour and corn for totillas. The ensuing green, mucilaginous paste is mixed with water, flour, sugar, lemon juice and egg white and then let to sit for several days. At the proper time it is poured into wooden half molds, the 2 halves removed and pasted to gethther and then decorated and painted with vegetable dyes to give the desired effect.