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Swiss Orchid Foundation
at the Herbarium Jany Renz

Botanical Institute
University of Basel

Kirschblütenweg 12
CH-4059 Basel

© 2015 Swiss Orchid Foundation

botinst
Botanical Institute
University of Basel

Genus descriptions

 

Cymbidium

Cymbidium atropurpureum (Lindl.) Rolfe
© P. J. Cribb

This plant in BibliOrchidea
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Cymbidieae
Subtribe: Cymbidiinae
Synonyms: Arethusantha Finet, Cyperorchis Bl., Iridorchis Bl., Jensoa Raf., Cyperocymbidium A. Hawkes
Description: Cymbidium is a terrestrial or epiphytic, rarely lithophytic herb, that grows sympodially. The size of the plant is variable from small to mostly large, some plants form clumps with leaves of more than one metre long. Most species have thick, fleshy roots covered with a spongy velamen. The stems are erect and usually form prominent pseudobulbs but sometimes also obscure ones or a stem. Normally new pseudobulbs are built annually from the rhizome. Each pseudobulb has three to twelve plicate leaves that almost completely cover the pseudobulb at the base. A single species, C. macrorhizon, is entirely mycotrophic and lacks leaves and pseudobulbs. The inflorescence also sprouts from the base of the pseudobulb, is erect or pendent and carries one or up to 50 flowers. The flowers are often large and showy with the sepals and petals free. The 3-lobed lip is attached at the base of the column, is slightly recurved with two parallel callus ridges on the upper surface, and has erect sidelobes. The column is elongate with usually two pollinia. The stigma is a sticky concavity situated on the underside of the column behind the anther. The ovary is inferior.
Type: Cymbidium aloifolium (L.) Sw. (syn. Epidendrum aloifolium)
Distribution: From the Himalayan region eastwards to Southeast Asia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia.
Species: ca. 50
Etymology: Gr.: kymbes = shaped as a boat, referring to the molding of the lip.
Culture: In cultivation two groups of Cymbidium can be distinguished: species that grow in higher elevations (mountain regions) and in temperate zones and require cool nights (10° C or even less in winter) and species from tropical zones that have to be cultivated warmly. Both the terrestrial and epiphytic have similar requirements regarding the compost; it should be free draining, but still moisture retaining. Cymbidiums love deep, relatively narrow pots, as their fleshy roots like to grow straight downwards. Cymbidiums with pendent inflorescences can be cultivated in baskets. All species need good light, air, humidity, and water during the growing period and can be placed outside in the garden during summer. When the growth period has ended in winter, the water requirements are reduced, but the root ball should not be allowed to dry up.
Notes: Cymbidiums have been cultivated in China since the time of Confucius, the first cultural instructions date from the 13th century AD. In medieval times in Japan, the rich bourgeoisie cultivated Cymbidium whereas Neofinetia falcata was reserved for the samurai class and Dendrobium moniliforme for the members of the imperial family. Cymbidiums are the most valued orchids in China and Japan. They are cultivated in tall, slender, often very precious pots. Nowadays, the cut flower production of cymbidiums is important worldwide.

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