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Laelia speciosa Showy Laelia


Showy Laelia , Laelia speciosa


Laelia speciosa (Kunth) Schltr. 1914 SUBGENUS Laelia SECTION Laelia Lindley Photo by Lourens Grobler

Common Name May-flowered or Showy Laelia or in Mexico - Flor de Mayo - Flor de Todos Santos

Flower Size to 8" [to 20 cm] Fragrant

This is a Mexican orchid of the central plateau and adjoining highlands warm to cold growing, small sized epiphyte with 1 to 2 leaves that is found in xerophytic conditions in open oak forests at elevations of 1400 to 2400 meters with subglobose to ovoid, rugose pseudobulbs with 1 to 2 lanceolate-elliptic, acute, coriaceous-fleshy, green suffused with purple, basally clasping leaves that blooms in the spring and summer with an apical, 5 to 6" [12 to 15 cm] long inflorescence which arises from a newly developing pseudobulb and carries 1 to occasionally 4, fragrant flowers. It is a very drought resistant plant and as such should be given a drier environment and a definite dry winter rest.

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 autumnalis. 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.

Synonyms Amalia grandiflora (Lex.) Heynh. 1846; Amalia majalis (Lindl.) Heynh. 1846; Bletia grandiflora La Llave & Lex. 1825; Bletia speciosa Kunth 1816; Cattleya grahami Lindley 1841; Cattleya majalis [Lindl.]Beer 1854; Laelia grandiflora (La Llave & Lex.) Lindl. 1831; Laelia majalis Lindley 1839