Comprehensive Description

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Comprehensive Description

Cymbidium ensifolium, the classic "Lan" (the Chinese term for Cymbidium orchids), is a fairly common and variable orchid found throughout Indochina, China, Japan, Borneo, New Guinea, and the Philippines at elevations ranging from 985 to 5,905 feet. Grown more for its beautiful arching, well-proportioned foliage than for the flowers, this adaptable species has done well in cultivation for many centuries and is considered a symbol of virtue, honor, and scholarship. Known since the time of Confucius and cultivated in China for many centuries, it is possibly the first cultivated orchid.

A much more petite plant than the large, familiar hybrids, these plants were grown in tall, ornate, specially designed, vase-like pots that created a distinct and stylized, aesthetically pleasing presentation. The flowers are borne on short, upright racemes well spaced along the inflorescence. While not among the showiest of the cymbidium species, the often dull colored blooms do emit a most pleasant lemony fragrance.

Due to variations over its huge geographic range, many cultivars, particularly those with variegated leaves have been collected and are treasured in the Orient. Such plants are often one of a kind, or extremely rare, and divisions are often considered highly valuable and can sell for outrageous sums.

While C. ensifolium does reasonably well as an indoor orchid, it is better suited to being grown outside in subtropical conditions or in an intermediate greenhouse. It does not need the cool temperatures required by the large hybrid cymbidiums in order to bloom. Flowers generally appear in mid-summer to early autumn, but can appear sporadically at other times of the year as well.

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© Tom Mirenda

Source: EOL Rapid Response Team

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