The Oncidium Section GLANDULIGERA

The 'Butterfly' Orchids

The Section, as it is currently delineated contains four species, kramerianum, papilio, sanderae and limminghei, 28 although the valid inclusion of the last species is debated. 2,28,44 This Section was originally established by Lindley in his Flora Orchidacea, published in November 1855, on the type papilio. Kraenzlin, in 1922, in his remonograph of the genus, changed the Section's name to Poikilophylia, although this name is now considered invalid. 28, 2 Recently, it has been suggested 44 that this Section should be elevated to separate generic rank as 'Psychopsis', to what was originally recommended by Rafinesque in 1838, and this view now appears to be widely accepted..

The European cultivation of these species started with the Governor of Trinidad, Sir Ralf Woodford, sending some plants to a number of English collectors in 1824.
Onc. papilio first flowered the following year in the collection of a Mr Colville of Chelsea 29 It is said it was the display of this species that was largely responsible for the sudden interest in orchids which occurred in the early part of the nineteenth century. Because the Duke of Devonshire started a collection of orchids after he saw these flowers, the fashion of orchid growing was said to have started amongst the aristoracy. 44

Garay and Stacy
2 note the characteristics of the plants in this Section are their fleshy sepals. The petals and lip are thin and more or less translucent except for the callus. The dorsal sepal and petals are narrow and the lateral sepals are very different in proportion. The pseudobulbs are conspicuous, with the leaves situated close together.


Onc. papilio. This species is said to be particularly widespread, being found from Trinidad to Colombia and Equador.28 Hawkes 1 describes the plants as having tightly clustered oval-oblong to almost round pseudobulbs, to some 50 mm long. They are usually very compressed, wrinkled, often dull red with darker blotches. There is a solitary leaf, rigidly erect, dull green, considerably mottled and blotched with purplish crimson, this colouration being most developed on the leaf under- surface. Each leaf is some 150 to 225 mm long, by 50 to 65 mm broad. The inflorescence is usually 600 to 1500 mm tall, prominently jointed, terete for the lower half, somewhat flattened above. Single flowers at once are produced, but these appear successively over some months, each flower reported to last well.

Each clone can be somewhat variable in colour, and quite so in size, but flowers are usually about 125 to 1 50 mm from tip to tip. The dorsal sepal and petals are dull reddish-crimson, often with a few yellow transverse stripes, yellowish-green on the reverse sides; all three erect together. The lateral sepals are very undulated, bright chestnut-red with some transverse yellow markings. It is said to flower almost throughout the year. Distinguishing features are the flattened apical part of the flower stem, simple crest from a prominent triangular plate on the basal part of the lip, and distinctive characteristic of two small knobs on the upper part of the column wings.
28 An albino form, having the red anthocyanin pigments suppressed is known under the name var. latourae. 28

Onc. kramerianum. Early literature includes this often under papilio. It is another geographically widespread species, ranging from Costa Rica through Panama to Colombia and Equador, partially overlapping the range of papilio.28 Its tightly clustered pseudobulbs are roundish to vaguely squarish, usually purplish or dull purplish-brown, strongly compressed, 25 to 45 mm in diameter. The solitary rigidly leathery leaf is often densely spotted with dull maroon on the reverse side, and is 150 to 200 mm long, to 75 mm wide, the upper surface sometimes dark green mottled with purple. The inflorescence is erect, persistent for several years, and producing flowers at irregular intervals, but usually singly, throughout that period. The spike is 1 metre tall, strongly jointed, the nodes conspicuously swollen. Flowers are very spectacular, lasting rather well, being to 125 mm long in certain forms, somewhat similar to papilio.1 It is readily identified from that, however, by the entire terete flower spike and the column wings being only minutely toothed as compared with papilio, which is deeply so. There is also only a simple lip crest arising from an obscure triangular plate.28 Hawkes 1 reports that it is mostly autumn and winter flowering, but can flower sporadically throughout the year. This species was introduced into England in 1823. A variety resplendens is said to have larger flowers than the type, with brighter colourings

Oncidium kramerianum flower and crest detail

Onc. sanderae. This species is said to be locally abundant near Moyabamba in Peru and is thought to be the same as the species versteegianum listed in a number of earlier studies.28 This is described as a rare but beautiful member of this Section, being similar to One. papilio in size and shape, and was introduced into cultivation in 1910. It is shown as autumn flowering. 6 The beautiful comb shaped wing column together with flattened flower scape are its distinguishing points. The nodes are also said to be distinctive making identification of non-flowering plants casy.28

Onc. limminghei. This species was originally assigned to the Section Glanduligera. It was moved during a subsequent review to the Section Plurituberculata because of the small size of the pseudobuibs as compared to other members of this Section .28 Garay and Stacy in their 1974 review 3 have excluded this from Glanduligera and returned it to Plurituberculata. Where it should be placed is obviously still a matter of opinion. It, however, vegetatively appears like a small papilio, and subsequent reviews have again caused its inclusion in the Glanduligera Section. In the German orchid periodical Die Orchidee of January 1982, as reported by Dunsterville 44 they have recommended the establishment of a new genus 'Psychopsielle', containing this single species, Psychopsielle limminghei. They base the establishment of this new genus on the fact that this species has "a unique combination of characters, none of which individually would be conclusive, but which, together, do result in a form quite different from other Psychopsis species." If this recommendation is generally accepted, perhaps it will resolve the confusion that has existed for some time concerning this species. It is said to be a highly endemic Brazilian species only growing in an area 16 km wide by 24 km long between Rio de Janeiro and Cabo Frio. It is also known under a later synonym echinophorum. 28 This species has three to five flowers in succession, some 40 mm across, golden-yellow spotted brown. The sepals and petals are oval, the lateral sepals smaller than the dorsal. The lip is blunt with two ear-like appendages. The pseudobulbs are oval, two-edged, and some 20 mm wide, on an ascending rhizome. The petals and sepals are not as elongated as those of papilio.6

Oncidium limminghei


Certain breeding work has been undertaken with species from this Section. Moir
20 reports that when crossed out of the Section, the fine papilio antennae like sepals and lip are lost. Certain crosses with brassies have resulted in magnificent papilio- like flowers on a medium long peduncle. With trichopilla there are only a couple of flowers to a spike. Crossed with Oncidium ampliatum (making the hybrid Oncidium Vizir) the appearance of papilio is entirely lost.

In some local collections is seen the hybrid
papilio crossed with Oncidium stacyi registered as Krsti Leigh. Onc. stacyi is said 21 to be one of those chance in a million intersectional hybrids occurring naturally, in this case between a Cyrtochilum oncidium with Oncidium jonesianum, a member of the Section cebolletae. Onc. Kristi Leigh produces a flower 90 mm across by 100 mm tall. The papilio "antennae" are made into long narrow tepals having a deep green colouration, barred with chocolate brown. The lip is very bright yellow covered with scattered bars and spots of bright rust red. There is a lower border of short perpendicular bars close together at the edge of the lip. 20

Certain intersection breeding has been completed. The hybrid
papilio x sanderae is listed 18 as Butterfly; papilio x kramerianum as Kalihi.


The fact that species of this Section of oncidium have a wide geographical distribution means they will be used to some environmental difference. Kennedy
28 reports that papilio and kramerianum grow in relatively dry upland forests, whereas sanderae prefers rain forests and needs a great deal more water, which must be provided for successful cultivation.

14 mentions the adaptability of oncidiums generally to cultivation and advises all require good light levels. Hawkes 1 generally confirms the requirement for bright growing conditions. He also emphasises the fact that the growing media must have perfect drainage, as they are highly intolerant of stale conditions around the roots. Most authors indicate that provided this drainage is provided, they generally tolerate a wide range of growing media. Orchids for Everyone 30 advises these plants grow best on a raft suspended from the roof of an intermediate temperature (13 oC minimum) glasshouse, especially where they receive that extra mount of light. The Dictionary of Gardening 6 recommends that the night temperature should not fall below 17 oC. Hawkes 1 lists both papilio and kramerianum as requiring intermediate to warm temperatures. Williams 7 advises block or basket culture is best, in intermediate (cattleya) to warm conditions. A local grower has also noted these species do best if given a little more shade when actually growing, then moved into brighter light for a short period following maturity of each new growth.

It is generally indicated that these species do require more careful growing conditions than many other orchids to be maintained for success to be obtained. Northen
14 especially notes that kramerianum "does not grow with the abandon usual to the genus, but it rewards careful attention with a succession of single spectacular butterfly flowers."

28 emphasises that the floral scape of plants in this section should not be cut after the flowers die as they are perennial, and will flower the next season as well. They should not be removed until they turn yellow.

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 Site established 9th May 1998
Oncidium series first uploaded 20 October 1999