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What Is Encyclia?

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  • Written By: L. Baran
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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The encyclia is a type of orchid named for the flowering lips that encircle the central stem of the plant. The name originates from the Greek term enkykleomai, meaning "to encircle." This type of plant is native to the West Indies, Central America, Venezuela, Florida and Columbia. It can produce striking flowers from lemon yellow to blood red.

These orchids typically have two elongated leaves, which surround round pseudobulbs. The function of the pseudobulb, located on the stem, is to store important nutrients for the plant. Flowers protrude from the pseudobulbs, and they can have a wide array of colors depending on the specific type of encyclia. The encyclia tampensis or butterfly orchid, for example, features a purple stripe on a muted yellow or green flower.

Encyclias are known as epiphytic orchids. This means that they use a host, such as a tree or other plant, to grow on. They do not, however, take any nutrients from that host or affect its growth. These orchids still obtain their nutrients from the rain, soil and surrounding air, but they find these elements in the immediate area on or around their chosen environment. Other possible host locations include ferns, bark and driftwood.

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This type of orchid flourishes in a wide range of conditions. It prefers temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 29 degrees Celsius), but is known to withstand colder temperatures in environments at altitude. Encyclia require moist, efficiently draining soil to flourish, and significant watering in the first year after planting. In subsequent seasons, regular watering during hot conditions is needed. The optimum placement for the orchid is in a full-sun location, although partial sun should also be sufficient.

Pollination of the encyclia occurs via bees and many different types of birds. There is debate over the number of species in this orchid genus, but it is typically accepted that there are at least 170 different species. Many orchid collectors enjoy creating novel hybrids with encyclia orchids and other types of plants. Rare species can be worth a lot of money.

One of the reasons the encyclia is so popular among gardeners is its versatility. This plant thrives in flower beds, hanging baskets and pots. Any pot or basket must be adequately drained to prevent the plant's roots from becoming overly moist. Unlike many plants, this orchid tolerates repotting well and can be moved when necessary.

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