Friday, July 10, 2009
The Cockle Shell Anacheilium
The Cockle Shell Anacheilium, Anacheilium cochleatum (formerly known as Encylia cochleata). For the Latin fans among you, you will notice that this plant's Latin name has undergone a gender change! cochleata (feminine, pronounced cock-lee-a-ta) has changed to cochleatum (masculine, pronounced cock-lee-a-tum). In general, they change the gender of the specific name to match the gender of the Genera. (That's a tongue twister, isn't it?) The taxonomists decided to move the whole group of these adorable, upside down flowering (non-resupinate...), "Encyclia" into their very own Genus, Anacheilium. They do look fairly different so perhaps it is well deserved.
In any case, these orchids are very widespread, being found throughout the Carribean, Central America and northern South America including Florida, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Bahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Leewards, Puerto Rica, Windwards, French Guiana, Surinam, Guyana, Venezuela and Colombia. They are easy growing, very showy, tolerant of a wide variety of conditions and, apparently, edible. Go figure. Many of the other species in the genus are delightfully fragrant but cochleatum is more or less fragrance-free. There is also a fair amount of geographical variation so it would not surprise me if the taxonomists eventually split out some subvarieties or even new species.