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  • Writer's pictureOrchid Muse

Coelogyne mayeriana 'Beta'

If a little green alien and a Victorian lady mated, Coelogyne mayeriana 'Beta' would be their love child. The flowers and the scent of this orchid are that out of this world.

(Who are you?!)

Hopefully, you can pick up the alien reference right away--the thing is neon apple green. The lip, however, in its intricacy, looks like a corseted lady from the back, complete with flashy bustle, varying textures, and pinched-in waist. (It was described by Reichenbach in 1877, so maybe the connection isn't far-fetched.)

Coelogyne mayeriana is a bit of a shape-shifter, and its color is highly mutable to the camera's eye in various lighting environments. The photo above is what it appears to be in a well-lit office environment. But in other settings it appears more yellow (below).

And in sunlight, its petals are magnificently glittery (below)! What a seduction.

Glitter bomb!

Ok, so the real reason to grow Coelogyne mayeriana 'Beta', however, is because of its fragrance. In various places online, this orchid's scent is described as "lemony." I have to disagree, at least for 'Beta.' The scent of this orchid is sweet and tropical. For me, it recalls mango and sweet melon, with a dash of gummy bear. It also has some undertones of watermelon rind and fresh grass. It absolutely aligns with my dreamy vision of its tropical native environment, Malaysia. It stands right up there with the angraecums and neofinetias as one of my favorite orchid scents.

Unlike many other coelogynes, Coel. mayeriana needs heavy water year-round, and loves very high humidity (80-90%). Also unlike other orchids, it appreciates late-afternoon sun. For me, this means it sits in a northwest window, right up next to the glass, with no shade curtain. (I live in northern Wisconsin, so adapt these recommendations for your locale!) Coel. mayeriana also appreciates the heat: never let it dip below 65F. I grow it in straight sphagnum, as instructed by a popular midwestern orchid seller.

Another of the seemingly endless fascinating details that sets this orchid apart is that its inflorescence blooms before its pseudobulb and leaves have matured. Most orchids simply grow differently, with their life stages a bit more easily anthropocentrized (youth as pseudobulb and leaves to support its reproductive maturity). Almost everything about this large but elegant sprawler (again, I must compare it to a Victorian lady's dress) is a bit, well, weird (in a freaky alien sort of way). This orchid thus combines two things I love most in life: science fiction and late 19th century fashion history. Add a scent to swoon for, and we have an orchidaceous creature from another universe--a botanical labyrinth to love.


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