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Encyclia alata & E. cordigera


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Encyclia, William Jackson Hooker Published in the Botanical Magazine 55, 1828.

A genus of about 200 species frequently found in symbiotic relationships with ants..  Etymology is from the Greek word enkykleomai (“to encircle”), referring to the lateral lobes of the flower lip, which encircle the column.


Encyclia alata (Bateman) Friedrich Schlechter published in Die Orchideen 207. 1914. Basionym Epidendrum alatum James Bateman published in The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala Synopsis, 18, 1840.  Common name Butterfly orchid.

 Description: Medium to large sized plants reaching over 2 meters (80" high when in flower.

 Habitats: Usually epiphytic yet occasionally terrestrial from sea level to 1,000 m. (3281 ft.) Range: Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico and Belize), Caribbean, Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and very probably Panama.) also Colombia in northern South America.

Subspecies parviflora Dressler & G. E. Pollard in Phytologia 21, 1971. Some consider it a full species.  Synonyms: Epidendrum alatum var. parviflorum Regel published in Linnaea 12, 1856. Epidendrum alatum var. parviflorum Regel, published in Ann. Sci. Nat., Bot., IV, 6, 1856.  Encyclia belizensis subsp. parviflora (Regel) Dressler & G. E. Pollard Orquídea (Mexico City), 3, 1974.  Encyclia parviflora (Regel) Withner Cattleyas & Relatives 5, 1998.  Epidendrum jeansonnei J. M. H. Shaw, Orchid Rev. 78, 2003.

  Ecology. I quote part of an abstract. “It is suggested that E. belizensis var.  parviflora benefit from the presence of Crematogaster aff., torosa resident in old pseudobulbs, which effectively act as domatia by absorbing nutrients from organic wastes produced by those ants.  (Damon et al. 2005.)

 Subspecies virella Robert Louis Dressler & G. E. Pollard in Phytologia 21(7) 1971.

Cultivation: An attractively flowered, easy species of low maintenance, hence very popular in cultivation requiring hot to warm conditions in light shade.  It may be potted in orchid mix or grown mounted if given liberal water when in growth with somewhat drier spells between waterings when cool, especially at night.


Encyclia cordigera (hbk) Robert Louis Dressler published in Taxon 13(7): 247. 1964. Basionym Cymbidium cordigerum Karl (Carl) Sigismund Kunth, in Nova Genera et Species Plantarum 1: 341, 1815.

  Ecology: Ants were seen to visit extra-floral nectar sources mostly on the flower bases and petiole junctions of Encyclia cordigera. ( Damon & Pérez-Soriano 2005.

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