AFRICAN

ORCHIDS

Cymbidiella falcigera (Rchb.f.) Garay, Orchid Digest 40: 192 (1976).
Homotypic Synonyms:
Grammangis falcigera Rchb.f., Flora 68: 541 (1885).
Heterotypic Synonyms:
Cymbidium humblotii Rolfe, Gard. Chron. 1892(2): 8 (1892).
Caloglossum humblotii (Rolfe) Schltr., Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. 15: 213 (1918).
Caloglossum magnificum Schltr., Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. 15: 314 (1918).
Cymbidiella humblotii (Rolfe) Rolfe, Orchid Rev. 26: 58 (1918).
Description:
Cymbidiella falcigera is a large epiphyte. Pseudobulbs, up to 30.0 cm tall, are cylindrical and closely set. Leaves, from seven to 40, cover the pseudobulbs and are arranged in a graceful fan. Leaves are loriform, lanceolate, 25 to 60 cm long and 2.5 to 3 cm broad. The inflorescence, usually 80 cm long, is paniculate, erect and emerges from bases of the pseudobulbs. Peduncles covered by seven to nine brownish sheaths. Floral bracts are brown and lanceolate. Flowers are large, showy, waxy, 8 cm in diameter and very long lasting. Sepals, 4.5 cm long and 1 cm wide, are lanceolate-acute, thick and keeled near the median. Petals, 4 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, are oval lanceolate, acute, and are thinner than the sepals. Sepals and petals are pale green, but are not spotted. Labellum is triblobed, 3 cm in width, 4 cm long. Mid lobe is 1.6 cm wide, thick, fleshy, and its margins are undulately crisped. Mid lobe is pale green with a yellow stripe running through the median. The mid lobe is margined and maculate with blackish-purple and has one bilamellate callus. The lateral lobes are ovate, erect and obtuse. Column is 1 cm long and the foot is .4 cm long.
Habitat:
This species is endemic to Madagascar. It is a specialized epiphyte, growing almost exclusively on the palm Raphia ruffia, which is the source of raffia twine. Cymbidiella falcigera is only occasionally seen inhabiting the other common raphia palms of Madagascar. It resides only on the trunk of the palm. Cymbidiella falcigera grows to become a substantially sized plant, the long rhizomes winding down and around the trunk of the palm. Although it is a host-specific orchid, like Cymbidiella pardalina, it is relatively common. Cymbidiella falcigera lives at an elevation of sea level to 1,310 feet (0 to 400 m) widespread in the forests of eastern Madagascar and the adjacent small islands.
Cultivation:
Fortunately, Cymbidiella falcigera does not need to be mounted on the large raphia palm to survive in cultivation. Nevertheless, Cymbidiella falcigera has shown a remarkable tendency to resent transplantation from the wild into cultivation for two main reasons. One is that cut rhizomes often get infected with fungal disease. Another is that the roots of Cymbidiella falcigera dry out quickly once cut, and as a consequence the whole plant desiccates and dies. It is difficult to successfully collect a plant from the wild and establish it in cultivation. The most feasible way to cultivate Cymbidiella falcigera is through seed-grown plants. Otherwise, the cultural treatment of this cymbidiella is similar to that of Cymbidiella falcigera pardalina. Cymbidiella falcigera can take more light than the other two Cymbidiella falcigera species. Cymbidiella falcigera, a rampant grower with large leaves, is not an orchid for the small or crowded greenhouse. This cymbidiella blooms from December to January in Madagascar and from June to July in the Northern Hemisphere.
Notes:
Cymbidiella falcigera, the black orchid of Madagascar, is a lovely orchid with a splendid black-marked lip. This orchid is virtually absent from cultivation, however, and is the most difficult cymbidiella to obtain. The foliage of Cymbidiella falcigera is superb, forming large arching, graceful fans. Cymbidiella falcigera produces a wealth of flowers, as the number of flowers on a mature specimen can easily reach more than 50, sometimes as much as a hundred blooms on a branched inflorescence. It deserves substantially more interest and cultivation, as its flowers possess a truly striking lip.
Distribution:
E. Madagascar