If you didn’t know better, you might think that these flower buds look like the very hungry plant Audrey II, from the classic film and musical Little Shop of Horrors. Fortunately, this orchid doesn’t have teeth and doesn’t eat people, so there’s no danger.
Once the buds open, these flowers lose their threatening facade, and look like bizarre insects in flight. They belong to the Swan Orchid, or Cycnoches. That’s easier to pronounce than it looks — it sounds like “sick NO keys,” with the emphasis on the “no.” The Swan Orchid nickname comes from the graceful shape of the flower “neck,” properly called the column. It’s easier to imagine the swan if you look at the flower upside-down.
These blooms last for over a month, and have a strong, spicy perfume. Many orchids go dormant for the winter, but Cycnoches is actually deciduous, with leaves that yellow and drop in the fall. At this point, the plant will quickly rot if overwatered. I water as seldom as once a month in the winter, but maintain good humidity. Watering and fertilizing resume when new spring growth is about 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) tall. This dormant cycle reflects the long dry season in the Swan Orchids’ tropical jungle homes, which are centered around the Amazon.
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