Cymbidiella pardalina (Rchb.f.) Garay, Orchid Digest 40: 192 (1976).
Grammangis pardalina Rchb.f., Flora 68: 541 (1885).
Cymbidium rhodochilum Rolfe, Orchid Rev. 10: 184 (1902).
Caloglossum rhodochilum (Rolfe) Schltr., Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. 15: 213 (1918).
Cymbidiella rhodochila (Rolfe) Rolfe, Orchid Rev. 26: 58 (1918).
Cymbidiella pardalina is a medium-large epiphyte. Pseudobulbs are 7.5 to 12 cm tall, oblong-conical, green, turning a dark purplish-brown color as they mature. A mature growth bears five to 10 dark green arching flexible, distichous, linear loriform leaves, which range from 65 to 100 cm long and from 1.5 to 2 cm wide. The green inflorescence, 40 to 100 cm tall and 5 to 9 mm in diameter, arises from the base of the mature pseudobulbs. A mature growth typically bears two inflorescences. The raceme carries up to 20 or more large flowers, though usually much less. Floral pedicels, formed around the inflorescences over a period of a month, are 7 to 8 cm long. Bracts are green, lanceolate acute and reflexed. Flowers are 8 to 10 cm in diameter, although many specimens have slightly smaller flowers. Flowers are long lasting, showy and open over a period of a month. Sepals are 1.2 to 1.4 cm in width and 3.7 to 4.5 cm in length. Sepals are light green, oblong lanceolate, and narrowed basally, thick, fleshy and of substance. Petals are obovate elliptic, erect, concave, larger basally than apically, but thinner than the sepals. Petals are light green and are covered with purplish-black spots. Petals are 3.5 to 4.0 cm in length, 1.7 to 1.9 cm in diameter. The lip is trilobed, 3 cm in width and 3 cm in length. The mid lobe is flabellate, large, prominent, bright crimson with a yellow stripe running through the median, spotted with black. Margins are usually undulate. The mid lobe is variable in both size and color. Lateral lobes are sub-erect, light green spotted with purplish-black. Column is .8 cm in width, 1 cm tall, and the foot is 3 to 4 cm in width and 4 to 5 cm in length.
Endemic to Madagascar, Cymbidiella pardalina is a highly specialized epiphyte, living exclusively on the stag-horn fern Platycerium madagascariense. Platycerium madagascariense itself is a peculiar staghorn fern because its basal fronds are modified to become rounded and deeply furrowed with elevated ridges, hence its nickname "waffle staghorn." It is on these modified basal fronds that Cymbidiella pardalina resides. Interestingly, Platycerium madagascariense is also a host-specific epiphyte, living exclusively on the tall tree Albizzia fastigata. Cymbidiella pardalina lives in the eastern forests of Madagascar in the region of Perinet, at an elevation of 1,970 to 2,625 feet (600 to 800 m). Cymbidiella pardalina is of considerable rarity in its native habitat.
Cymbidiella pardalina is actually a surprisingly easy plant to grow. It does not need to be mounted on the Platycerium to achieve successful cultivation, especially if the orchid has been raised artificially from seed. Some growers, however, report that this orchid thrives even better when grown together with the Platycerium. If you have the opportunity to obtain the rare Platycerium madagascariense, then you should probably consider growing them together. Platycerium madaga-scariense is in its own right a particularly handsome staghorn fern. One benefit of mounting Cymbidiella pardalina on the Platycerium is that repotting is minimized. Cymbidiella pardalina does better in an acidic medium. Germination of this cymbidiella is difficult, and removal of the plantlets from flask is tricky, since the brittle roots of the plantlets are usually greatly tangled among each other in the flask. One reminder: the pseudobulbs of Cymbidiella pardalina turn purplish-black as they mature. Do not remove them thinking they are dead; they are alive and functioning. In Madagascar, this orchid blooms from November to December, and in the Northern Hemisphere it blooms from May to June, occasionally into July.
Although the so-called "scarlet cymbidium" is quite rare in cultivation, it is not entirely unfamiliar to many orchid growers. It has been sporadically cultivated through the years. A blooming-size plant is difficult to obtain in the United States, although it is possible to obtain seedlings. This orchid is in serious threat of extinction because of its rarity in its habitat, its popularity in its own native Madagascar, and its popularity among orchid growers throughout the world. Fortunately, growers have recently produced many flasks of Cymbidiella pardalina. For those growers looking for a possible award-winning species, this is the one. A specimen of Cymbidiella pardalina in full bloom is a magnificent sight, commanding attention with its bold and strikingly beautiful flowers. This orchid, after becoming more readily obtainable, will undoubtedly assume immense popularity with the orchid enthusiast. Not only is Cymbidiella pardalina the loveliest cymbidiella, it is the easiest to grow.