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Probably the most variable of all the bifoliate
Cattleya species, C.
intermedia has been a long-time favorite
due to several reasons. Besides the huge variation in terms of color and color patterns on the flowers, the species
has a fairly compact growth habit (for more details on color pattern variation on the species, go to Photo Section). Flowers are also quite large (4" to 5" avg.)
in comparison with the size of the plants and are produced in fairly large (3-6 or more) number by inflorescence.
Adding to this, the larger populations come from the southernmost states of Brazil and this means that the plants
are subject to extreme cold and warm temperatures throughout the year. In terms of cultivation, ends up that the
plants are extremely adaptable to be grown warm to cool and that basically make the plants very easy to cultivate
under varied conditions. One thing to be kept in mind is that Cattleya intermedia
is a coastal species, and thus do not like to be grown dry; in fact, it is better not to allow the medium to get
completely dry for long period or frequently. The plants coming from southernmost populations are usually compact
and have a fairly short rhizome, making them easy to cultivate in pots. Those plants grow on swamps or among shrubby
vegetation on rock ledges. The Rio de Janeiro populations are quite small and plants grow under very different
conditions. There, they grow on the sand dunes near the sea and thus plants frequently get covered with sand as
those dunes are, as typically, moving. With this, those plants developed a longer and creeping rhizome that helps
the plants avoid being covered with sand. This, of course, makes them quite unsuitable for pot growing. On the
other hand, this is not really an issue, as the nicer color forms and better shaped plants came from the southernmost
populations and these are the ones that have been extensively reproduced artificially.
Distribution Map for Cattleya intermedia.
The distribution of the species actually goes down to Uruguay and Argentina, always along the coast, but these
populations are not shown here.
||On 1, we can see
how plants of Cattleya intermedia are found on the sand dune vegetation in Rio de Janeiro.
This habitat is quite harsh with intense light, wind and salt. With this, plants grow protected from these extremes
inside shrubs and in most cases only the leaves can be seen sticking out. Of course, when plants are in flower
they are readily visible. When plants are seen on the borders of the shrub tickets, in some cases they look like
growing directly on the sand. This, however, is not true, what happens is that the wind keeps throwing sand over
the vegetation but in reality the plants are rooted on the lower branches of the shrubs which end up covered with
On 2, we see the way most plants from the southernmost populations grow. These swampy areas
are always wet, but water level gets especially high during spring and summer. With this, it is quite difficult
to get to the plants as one has to wade slowly from tree to tree. The fact that these areas provide very high humidity
is probably the main reason why plants of Cattleya
intermedia are so abundant there.
In fact, the seedling production is so high that some branches are completely covered with plants. Plants are also
very long-lived here, and some individual plants can get to the point of producing hundreds of pseudobulbs. In
the end, these areas look like air gardens, and at the blooming season they put up an incredible show.
On 3, we see the typical flower form from the Rio de Janeiro population. Although this particular individual has
very good quality flowers, the spotting is rather typical for this population. There is some speculation as if
this is related to some breeding with Cattleya
guttata, another very common species
on those dunes. Fact is, there were several plants of Cattleya x picturata found there, and this is the natural hybrid between the two
species. However, these plants looked like primaries, and no further sign of further crossing was found. This is
getting to be irrelevant, as these areas are being rapidly destroyed for development.
On 4, there is the typical form from Southern Brazil. Flower shape is on average better in these
populations. The contrast between segments and lip is a trademark of the species.
On 5, we see Cattleya
intermedia f. suave, with typically white segments and light pink lip. Very rare. And on 6,
a good specimen of Cattleya intermedia f. coerulea.