Orchids are full of surprises.
There are the ‘grocery store’ varieties, better known as phalaenopsis, whose long sprays of colorful blooms seem to last forever. Then there are the more exotic types with unusual flowers and fancy names like Lady Slippers and Dancing Ladies. The crème de la crème of the orchid world are, arguably, the cattleyas whose grand blossoms adorned royalty a century and a half ago.
Yet, underneath all the glamour of the commercial genera are the nearly 30,000 different species which make up the remaining orchid kingdom.
One group of plants which gets considerable attention at the orchid shows are classified by the direction in which their flower spike emerges - downward. These ‘pendant bloomers’ produce blossoms beneath the foliage.
If the plant is in a container, there are holes in the bottom or sides so that the flower spike can make its way out. Growers often use hanging slatted baskets or simply mount the orchid to a piece of wood. Onlookers marvel at these extraordinary epiphytes which are dangling in mid-air. Some of the species whose blossoms hang down include those from the bulbophyllum, dendrobium, stanhopea, phalaenopsis, and rhynchostyllis families.
A far more common variation on the pendant blooming habit is the orchid whose flower spike starts out growing upward but whose buds are so heavy that the inflorescence quickly bends downward. There are species within the catasetum, coelogyne, cymbidium, dendrochilum, and oncidium genera which have naturally ‘arching to pendant’ style bouquets.
As hobbyists delve deeper into their passion, they find a seemingly infinite source of intrigue within the orchid world. Plants whose blossoms reside below the foliage, like a pendant, are part of that intrigue.