The Wonderful World of the Catasetum



Pronunciation:     kat-ah-SEE-tum

From the Greek kata (down) and Latin seta ( bristle)

Tribe: Cymdibieae

Subtribe: Catasetinae


Catasetum is the largest genus of the subtribe and grows in a variety of conditions. Many grow in the warm, moist open canopy of trees but there are a number that are happiest in the "boot" of palm trees. The boot of the palm trees is the base of old leaves that have been shed. Some species can be found on rocks, terrestrially and even in sand. Most of the Catasetum species are like Cycnoches in growth pattern. The new growths rapidly develop in a five to six month period, bloom, loose their leaves and are dormant for periods from one to five months depending on the species and the climatic conditions of their habitat. Another feature that Catasetum species share with Cycnoches is that they bear separate male and female flowers with occasional intermediate or hermaphroditic forms. The female flowers of all the many species of Catasetum are very similar in shape. It is almost impossible to determine the species from female flowers. The female flowers are non-resupinate with a galeate or hood-shaped lip that is uppermost. The column inside the lower portion of the lip is short and broad with the stigma located inside the tip of the column. The male flowers of Catasetum are highly variable among the many species. There are at least 12 to 15 different basic shapes ranging from non-resupinate male flowers such as Ctsm. macrocarpum to the resupinate Ctsm cristatum/barbatum group with lips that bear varying numbers and shapes of projections. The inflorescences originate from the base of the pseudobulbs ranging from arched to smoothly pendent. The pseudobulbs are generally fusiform with a variable number of nodes, from which new growths can originate. The early confusion among the varying sexual and floral forms led to the description of several different genera that were united into Catasetum around the middle of the 19th century. Also see Clowesia and Dressleria


Number of species:

The World Checklist of Monocotyledons recognizes 64 species and 9 natural hybrids (2007).



Central Pacific coast of Mexico to Paraguay and northern Argentina.


---  B A S I C   C U L T U R E  ---





Bright open shade with very good air movement to full sun


During the period the plants are in growth, maintain even moisture and high humidity. Once the plants have flowered, water can be reduced or stopped completely until new growth develops enough to produce new roots. As with Cycnoches, spider mites are the main enemy of Catasetum and they are brought on by hot dry conditions with little air movement. Maintain good moisture, high humidity and good air movement while the plants are in growth.


Use balanced or high nitrogen fertilizer while the plants are in growth. As with the other Catasetinae, I believe it is impossible to over-fertilize as long as the plants are copiously watered, given high light and strong air movement. See Cycnoches for my personal formula.


Sphagnum in clay ports, medium-fine firbark in clay or plastic pots or baskets; mounted on tree fern, cork or driftwood with sphagnum at the base for moisture. Hanging the pots or mounts is best because it provides good air movement around the plants. Remember that mounted, plants will require more frequent watering - two or more time per day in the hottest season. A good compromise is to place the plants in pots that are suspended. This offers advantages of both pots and mounts.




Catasetum fimbriatum

©2009 Greg Allikas

Catasetum integerrimum

©2009 Greg Allikas

Catasetum barbatum

'Sunset Valley Orchids HCC/AOS

©2009 Charles Rowden 


Catasetum hillsii 'Losgar' CHM/AOS

©2009 Dan Backhaus 

Catasetum pileatum

©2009 Greg Allikas

Catasetum denticulatum

'Sunset Valley Orchids II' AM/AOS

©2009 Charles Rowden



Catasetum / Culture


General information on the growing of Catasetums can be found here. Information specific to species and hybrid Catasetums can be found following the appropriate links below. Culture sheets are meant as a guide. The ultimate source for the proper care of any orchid is frequent observation of the actual orchid and the correct interpretation of what it is telling you.



Catasetum / Hybrids


Hybrid orchids are the result of an experienced grower controlling the breeding of two orchids that result in a hybrid orchid with traits from both parent orchids (a combination of two species or a mix of a species and a hybrid). These traits can include determining the overall size of the new orchid, appearance of the bloom, and growing conditions. Hybrid orchids are generally easier to care for. Hybrid orchids might also include more dramatic and longer lasting blooms.



Catasetum / Species


In the orchid world, "species" are those orchids that occur naturally in nature. Depending who you ask, the blooms of a species is better, the same or not as dramatic as the bloom of a hybdrid orchid. Most species orchids are less forgiving in a growing area they are not accustomed to and the result will be disappointing (specially for the orchid). Understanding the cultivation needs of species orchids will serve as a guide for the care of a hybrid that includes that particular species in its background.


All information presented here is for educational and informational purposes only under the guidelines of "Fair Use" policies defined by US Copyright law(s).  Some images and select text are protected by respective copyright holders. Material presented here is done so as educational, and "as is".  The Napa Valley Orchid Society, it's executive Board, General members and the web site maintainer cannot be held liable for any damages incurred.

When necessary, images and texts will be fully credited to the original.

Information here may be used by other orchid societies as long as they credit the original creator and at least mention the Napa Valley Orchid Website as a courtesy.