How can an orchid be sinister? Orchid descriptions usually include words like beautiful and elegant, hardly the stuff of Halloween. Ghost Orchids, dead orchids, and weird orchids can spook you, but it’s the creepy Draculas that can scare you. Some Dracula varieties have a strange flower lip which looks, well, fleshy. You almost expect it to start breathing. It lends these orchids a sinister air.
These creepy flower lips look and smell like mushrooms, and attract flies as pollinators. Many Dracula varieties have hairy or warty flowers, adding to their creepiness. Some appear to have triangular faces, with tiny petals inside the blossom which look like eyes. There’s even a species with nearly black flowers, appropriately named Dracula vampira.
These Draculas aren’t from old castles in Transylvania, but from cloud forests in the Andes. Most come from Ecuador and Colombia, with some species ranging to southern Mexico. Like bats, Dracula flowers enjoy hanging upside down. Although this makes perfect sense for epiphytes in the wild, it presents a challenge for cultivation. Orchid growers usually keep them in hanging baskets or mesh flowerpots to allow flowers to descend from base of the plant. Upside down flowers also present a challenge when taking photos. I know Dave’s superb skill at photography is matched by his dedication when I see him laying on the floor at an orchid show to capture the best shot.
It’s no surprise that Draculas hate direct sun. They like shade, and can grow under fluorescent lights like their Masdevallia relatives. They need constant high humidity, good air movement, and cool temps. Many varieties cannot tolerate the chemicals in tap-water, and need purified water or rain for daily waterings. That’s why my Red Bell Dracula is enjoying today’s rain. Hey, those flowers are looking more blood-red than before…
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