The Brassia is a species of orchid of difficult cultivation, native to the hilly and mountainous areas covered by forests of Central and South America; it is an uncommon species in cultivation, while it is easier to find in the nursery the different hybrids of this species with others more common.
They are equipped with enlarged pseudobulbs, which produce at the apex a couple of long ribbon-shaped leaves, of medium bright green colour, slightly leathery; in spring, from the apex of the pseudobulbs develops a thin stem, which grows arched, and which carries several very big flowers, in the tones of yellow, characterized by evident spots and by long appendices of the petals, which have deserved, at the end of the year, to be found in the nursery.
brassia the common name of spider orchid, because the flowers look like arachnids with very long legs. The pseudobulbs tend to develop a lot, producing periodically new pseudobulbs, and therefore each plant can, in the years, become very big.
Orchid native to Central America, epiphytic, it has oval pseudobulbs, flattened, with ribbon leaves; in spring it produces thin curved stems, with many big flowers, very perfumed, of yellow colour, with brown spots; the floral stems can reach almost one metre of length, rendering the plants very showy.
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Epiphytic orchid, native to the mountainous areas of South America, up to an altitude of 1900 m above sea level; it produces flattened pseudobulbs, fairly big, and long elongated leaves, leathery, of a bright green colour; every year, the pseudobulbs produce new pseudobulbs, from which will be produced the long inflorescences, which carry several yellow flowers, with brown spots.
Contrary to other brassiae which can be found in the nursery, the brassia neglecta can bear fairly low temperatures, and therefore is not completely suitable for living in an apartment, and therefore needs a temperate greenhouse, where it can find the right temperature of cultivation.
Epiphytic orchid native to Brazil, it produces oval, flattened, pseudobulbs, which develop long leaves and impressive arched inflorescences, which carry numerous greenish flowers, perfumed, provided with elongated petals, which can reach the 25-35 cm of length, giving to me flowers a light and delicate appearance. Plant of fairly simple cultivation, it develops well also in apartment, provided to be able to enjoy a temperature change of at least 5°C between day and night.
These orchids are not easy to find in nurseries, mainly because they need quite particular cultivation conditions, and therefore they are not suitable as a gift for Mother’s Day, unless the mother is a true lover of plants, and in particular orchids; generally in Italy, and also in Europe, it is easier to find species native to Central America, which have fairly similar cultivation needs.
They are epiphytic plants, this means that their roots are not used to sink in the soil, but prefer an incoherent substratum, made by mixing pieces of sphagnum and peat, pieces of vegetal charcoal, perlite or even polystyrene; the result is a medium of light and porous cultivation, which does not hold the water; as it happens for most of the epiphytic plants, they do not need enormous pots, and possibly they should be transparent, so that the roots can enjoy the sunlight.
Being epiphytes, these orchids get most of the water they need from the air, and not from the ground; therefore, it is essential to keep the plants, from March to September, in a humid and warm climate, and water them regularly.
Above all, the air must be very humid, whilst the cultivation soil must never be completely dry, and is therefore to be watered often, at least once every 4-5 days during the vegetative period, every 12-15 days during the resting period; the watering must be such as to soak well the soil, it is therefore advisable to practise them by immersion of the pot in water, then to let it drain and to put it back in its saucer.
It is not easy to ensure that the soil is humid, but not with stagnant water, especially at home in winter, when the dry air dries up quickly the mould, forcing us to water more often, thus favouring the presence of still water, which often causes radical rottenness.
During the vegetative period, let’s supply a universal fertilizer, about once a week, utilizing about one fifth of the dosage required on the package; every month, let’s skip a supply of fertilizer, so that the watering will wash away possible residuals of mineral salts left in the soil. During the cold period, let’s avoid supplying fertilizer.
Brassia and light
These orchids, as it happens also for many other species, live in nature on the high trees of the rainforests; at several metres from the ground, but in a shady place; between the wide branches, however, the light filters, especially in the early hours of the day or in the evening. Similarly, we should try to position our Brassia in a bright, but partially shady, area, where it can receive direct sunlight only in the morning or evening, avoiding the hottest hours of the day.
To know if the light offered is sufficient, it is best to look at the leaves: if they tend to have a progressively lighter green colour, they are receiving an excessive quantity of light, it is therefore advisable to move them to a more shaded area. If the leaves tend to turn dark green, then our plant has too little light, which, in addition to changing the color of the foliage, makes it impossible, or at least unlikely, the flowering.
Brassia produces fruits containing fertile seeds; it is not easy that these plants are pollinated at home, as they are based on a relationship of mutual help with a tiny wasp native to South America, which in Italy is not present, so we will hardly see a brassia with fruits. We can, however, get the seeds from the retailers, and we will sow them in a sterilized, humid soil, to be kept in a cool place, far away from the sunlight.
More easily, the Brassie propagate by division of the tufts: every year, the pseudobulbs produce secondary pseudobulbs, which may be detached from the mother plant, in autumn, and repotted individually; we will ensure that each portion of the plant, besides at least one pseudobulb, has also some healthy and vigorous roots, otherwise, it is probable that it will not be able to take root.
These plants do not like to be disturbed very much, so it often happens that divided plants stop blooming for at least a couple of years, so let’s do this type of division only if we are in the presence of a very large plant, with an excessively tiny pot.
Pests and diseases
Plants cultivated in a very dry climate are easily attacked by the cochineal, which tends to nest on the lower page of the leaves, or to their attachment to the pseudobulb; these insects are to be immediately removed, if desired also with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol; the cochineals are also a clear sign of the fact that our orchid is living in a too dry climate, and therefore needs better ventilation and a more humid climate.
Excessive watering quickly causes rottenness, both at the roots and at the pseudobulbs, which may manifest clearly with the yellowed and floppy foliage; a plant affected by rottenness is necessarily to be sprinkled of fungicide and repotted, placing it in a new container, containing fresh mould; the old mould is to be thrown away, as it contains the spores of the fungi which have caused the rottenness.
In spring it happens that these plants are attacked by aphids, especially if we move them outdoors in the summer; aphids usually nest on the new shoots. Also in this case, we can simply remove them from the plant, for instance with a jet of water.