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Cattleya trianae has had the most important role of all Cattleya both for cultivation as a species and for hybridizing of any other Cattleya or plants of the Laelinae tribe. This can be ascertained by the fact that over 510 hybrids have been registered using Cattleya trianae as one of the parents only followed closely by Cattleya aurea with almost 500 registered hybrids. Furthermore, Cattleya aurea and dowiana are considered as a single species by Sander’s. Cattleya mossiae comes in third place

Despite its very important role in orchid history, many authors still have misconceptions about its varieties, the plant’s morphological characteristics according to their original habitats, flowering periods and even historical facts. A little bit of history.

Cattleya trianae was actually first discovered in 1783 by Eloy Valenzuela during the very famous Botanical Expedition led by José Celestino Mutis. Valenzuela described the plant as Epidendrum grandiflorum in great detail in his entry log of the 17th of September 1783. Strangely, the plant went almost without any recognition for a long time.

The plant was collected around Mariquita. The description was made from fresh material. Herbaria plates were also made at the time which still exist today. Furthermore, one water color was painted and a monochromatic drawing was also made. Both, the water color painting and the drawing were used in the 1950’s as images for stamps in Colombia. At this time Cattleya trianae was elevated to the status of national flower, although there are no official papers that give it this official tittle. The true name of the plant should therefore read Cattleya grandiflora.

No plants of Cattleya trianae were shipped to Europe then and many plates of the Botanical Expedition were simply kept in herbaria for many years without any interest from the botanists. The plates from the Botanical Expedition never reached Europe and therefore, according to Rucker, the first plants where collected around 1850 along the Magdalena river. Only a few species of Cattleya were described at the time.

It is important to note that this is also the time in which Cattleya quadricolor was first seen by Rucker in his English greenhouse, and described by Lindley in 1849. Rucker and Lindley and other botanists like Reichenback must have been very confused about the species. The plants that they received are quite similar in flower, color and plant morphology to Cattleya quadricolor. They are still confused today by some authors and many growers.

It is clear that the first plants to arrive in England must have been collected in the area that is now the State of Cundinamarca, along the road that went from Bogotá to the city of Honda. Honda is still a port of some importance on the Magdalena river. In the mid XIX century, travelers had to go to there to take a boat down to the sea in Barranquilla and off to Europe.

Cattleya trianae did just that to get to Rucker’s greenhouse in England. As one takes the car from Bogotá to Honda and follows the same old routes, Cattleya trianae is still abundant in the area at heights ranging between 800 to 1300 meters above sea level.

No navigation on the Magdalena River is possible beyond a few miles upstream of Honda. Therefore, first plants could not have originated in the more southern regions of Huila where the other large Cattleya trianae population is found. No large urban developments existed then in this large piece of land. It is thus safe to assume that the large Cattleya trianae from the state of Huila with many flowers per spike, large petals and dark lip, and heavy massif pseudobulbs that we know today was not known then. Synonyms given to Cattleya trianae at the time like Cattleya Bogotensis can only make this point more clear. Habitat This brings us then to the Habitat of Cattleya trianae that we know today.

There are two distinct areas in which we can find Cattleya trianae. The northern region is located along both sides of the Magdalena river. At the west, from about La Dorada down to Payandé; at the east also from La Dorada southwards to Guaduas. This region comprises part of the states Cundinamarca, Tolima, and finally Antioquia. Part of their habitat coalesces with the habitat of Cattleya warscewiczii northwest of La Dorada. Plants are found at heights ranging from 700 - 800 to 1300 meters above sea level, possibly a bit higher in the eastern side and lower in the west.

The area is quite dry twice a year from December to mid March and from July to the end of September, this is specially true in the State of Tolima (western population). Plants will completely dry out due to the almost absolute lack of rainfall and to the hot wind that blows constantly from the lower areas. During these periods and temperatures can reach 37 °C to over 40 °Cattleya Plants are exposed to some direct sun light but they prefer to find cover underneath the canopy of large tall trees that grow along the rivers. However, it is possible find very large plants growing in rocks fully exposed to sun light.

During the 7 months of rain, the plants develop new roots and shoots. Rainfall will be up to 1.500 millimeters a year in average. The plants found in this region have slender pseudobulbs, narrow long leaves and usually bear two at the most three flowers in June and sometimes in December. Plants are quite similar to Cattleya quadricolor. It is also worth noting that the stem of the flower is quite long. The color of the flower is usually light pink to pale lavender. However, this region produces a large number of color variations that range from an almost pure white to lavender.

It is also common to find concolor forms and true semi alba clones. True alba forms are very rare. The color variation is remarkable in this area. No two plants are ever alike. Flowers reach 14 to 16 cm. The petals are twice as large as the sepals. The dorsal sepal has a tendency to fall back, sometimes it also folds and tries to form a tube at its base. The petals have more marked mid ribs and are narrow at the base. In general, the color contrast between the lip and the rest of the flower is not as great as one would expect in Cattleya trianae.

The color on the tip of the lip is purple and forms a triangle that is very characteristic in this Cattleya. Like most trianae, plants are easy to grow and when mature, they will flower easily. This area was extensively collected during the end of the XIX th century and the beginning of the XX th century until the new population of the south (Huila) was found. The first description of Cattleya trainae by Lindley and Reichenback was made from a plant collected in this region as was explained earlier.

The second area where Cattleya trianae is found has a “U” shape that stretches from Southern Tolima, crosses all the State of Huila and reaches the State of Cauca; towards the point where the eastern range (Cordillera oriental) and the central range (Cordillera Central) separate.

The Magdalena river is located in between both of them. Some reports extend the range all the way to Ecuador, although this is very doubtful given the type of hot humid climatic conditions of the rainforest of northern Ecuador Plants are found at heights of 900 to 1.400 meters above sea level. In general the area is humid or very humid near the small rivers, in particular to the south.

The dry period emulates that of the northern region but is much milder. It should be fair to assume that the southern area is the point of origin and distribution of Cattleya trianae since winds blow from the north to the south along the Magdalena river. As the valley widens the habitat becomes dryer as well.

The desert of La Tatacoa, which is the driest and possibly the hottest region of Colombia, divides both regions. No plants are found on the slopes of the mountains on both sides of this desert, probably because it is to dry and hot during the dry season.

With few exceptions, plants found in this area are much more desirable for collection purposes than those found in the north. Plants have thicker, greener and darker psudobulbs and leaves. Some plants will show spotted leaves almost to the point that they seem stained. The leaves are short and wide. Their growth habit is more compact.

The blooming time is around the months of August to October with very few plants bloom in march. Each flower spike bears up to six large flowers reaching 16 to 18 cm across.

The typical color is lavender - purple although very dark flowers are found as well as very few true alba plants. Petals are sometimes three times as large as sepals and are flatter. Flower shape can be quite round to the point it almost fill the imaginary circle that most collectors desire. The best plants are found in the far south part of the habitat. The best plants ever collected are found between Pitalito and Gigante.

Many of the clones that are famous like A. Cattleya Bourage, Mary Fennell, Jungle Queen, Mariposa, Mooreana and many others were discovered in the area some of these are simply hybrids with trianae heritage (Mooreana). Cattleya trianae Aranka Germanske should be considered as a hybrid.

The interest for Cattleya species declined for almost 40 years, keeping the plants somehow safe in their habitat. Colombian growers have done a good job at keeping the plants safe in their habitat while breeding to make new better plants. Some outstanding plants have been found that are in average much better than the older more famous clones. Color variations.

Brazilian growers have done a better job at describing the varieties of Cattleya labiata than the Colombian growers. The same color variations found in Cattleya labiata can be found in Cattleya tranae, although their occurrence is quite different.

The typical coloration of Cattleya trianae has lavender petals and sepals with a triangular purple dot on the lip very characteristic of the species. The colors on the lip will never mix together. With few exceptions, the side lobes of the lip are not white. The most remarkable of color variations is concolor, because the frequency of concolor flowers is the largest of any Cattleya species.

In the region of Tolima - Cundinamarca it is actually quite common, although their shape is never very good. There are light concolor to dark lavender concolors.

In the 70’s a Cattleya trianae plant with a very dark coloration was found and was awarded a JC by the A. O. S. Its clonal name, Sangre toro" was so good that it became a common name for dark variations of the species.

Sangre Toro variations are rare and they belong to the concolor family as the lip petals and sepals have the same dark almost red color. Although the original Sangre Toro is still in cultivation and remains an extraordinary plant, new darker and better forms have been found or bred since. The meaning of sangre toro in spanish is bull’s blood. Cattleya trianae coerulea was found some 15 years ago. Only about 25 to 30 plants have ever been found to have a blueish coloration. Many have very faint blue lips others have a very strong blue lips and petals.

One Cattleya trianae splash courulea has been found however, only pictures have been shown of the plant. Many of these clones are not very well known. Many times it is possible to find Cattleya trianae semi alba labelled as coerulea.

Cattleya trianae semi alba have pristine white petals and sepals with a purple - reddish dot at the tip of the lip that can vary its intensity. Although remarkable in color, the shape of the flower is never very good. With few exceptions like “White Kimera”, “Santa Teresa” and “Mancha” There are simply not many semi alba Cattleya trianae with very good shapes. True alba forms are possibly as rare as coerulea forms.

There are many quasi alba plants that have been collected over time but most have a faint, almost invisible color on the lip that disqualifies them as alba plants. True white plants with good shapes are almost impossible to see.

Lastly, splash flowers are also found. The intensity of the splash may vary depending on the clone but it can be quite faint to very noticeable like in “Mirada India”. ere

Cattleya trianae

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Article by: thomas Toulemonde thomas@suamena.com 
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