The phrase “stiff upper lip” usually describes the resolve of the British people, but it’s also an apt description for this Cyrtochilum. This orchid is an Oncidium relative from high-elevation cloud forests in the South American Andes, and it looks like it has teeth. The white “teeth” are actually part of the flower’s lip. It may appear delicate, but the lip is quite sturdy, and feels stiff to the touch.
The 3 inch (7.6 cm) flowers show off beautiful shades of yellow and purple, and the fascinating 3-D lip really gives the Brits some competition. Dave took photos at a variety of angles, so you can better appreciate the strange flower structure.
As proof of its fortitude, in the wild this species can handle freezes down to 25F (-4C.) However, if you have one in your collection, try to avoid letting the plant freeze. It should survive, but it may suffer some damage or not bloom as well. This plant lives outdoors all year here in San Francisco, and I try to keep it on the dry side during its winter dormancy.
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