Isochilus linearis

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Isochilus linearis - Click to Enlarge

This seldom seen orchid is one of seven species in the genus Isochilus which are lowland epiphytes primarily found in Central America, from Cuba and Mexico to Argentina. The genus is characterised by slender canelike stems with narrow distichous (in pairs on opposite sides of the stem) flat leaves and small sessile (having no stalk, but growing directly on the stem) tube flowers carried at the tip of the cane. Isochilus linearis is widespread and found in the lowlands from Mexico to Panama and the West Indies, and from Venezuela to Argentina on the eastern side of South America. It grows into dense clumps of multiple plants. The slender stems start vertically, but will arch as they grow up to their full length of 80cm (30 inches). The flowers of this orchid are small tubes (less than 1cm in length) of a light red-purple colour, but can vary from almost white to dark red-purple. The flowers occur in strings along the tip of the stems creating a very impressive display considering the small size of the individual flower.

This species is fairly easy to grow in cultivation. It grows happily in a Cattleya mix where it will run across the surface sending up a new slender cane every few millimetres forming a dense clump of fine arching canes. It requires water all year round with fairly high light levels, similar to that for cattleyas. It is reported to flower multiple times per year at any time of the year, but we have yet to experience that. We have had our plant for less that a year and it is still relatively small being potted in a 90mm pot with only about 30 canes. It flowered for us in early January for the first time with a six or so flowers on the end of seven of the oldest canes, making a very good display. The flowers do not open fully, but the sepals are joined at the base making a tube like flower. The flowers occur along the last few centimetres (1 inch) of the canes making the tips of the canes appear to be a long purple flower, quite a pleasing effect. The flowers only lasted about ten days, but they may last longer if it chooses to flower when it is not so hot.

This orchid is seldom seen though it should be grown more as it is easy to grow, is quite different from the usual Cattleyas and Dendrobiums, creates a good display when in flower, looks good even when not in flower, and has the potential to flower multiple times per year.

Graham Corbin


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