This Lycaste species had been discovered in Eastern Ecuador about 1871 by Veitch’s collector Mr. Pearce. It was described, registered, painted, cultivated and then it disappeared for over 100 years. Only in 1981, Father Angel Andreetta re-found it. Again it was examined, described, listed and now we read that quite a number of these plants can be found in Ecuador, growing on steep cliffs in rather inaccessible cloud forests. Of course, they are also in the trade and growing in several orchid collections.
This Lycaste, belonging to the fimbriatae, has now been transferred into a new genus and is called Ida linguella. Others in this new genus are Ida ciliata, denningiana, locusta etc. The flowers of Ida linguella are 7 – 10 cm across, ivory in colour and exude a scent like hyacinths. Considering the fact that when Dr. Bodle’s article was published, the species was still included in the Lycastes, he went on about this particular name and I still find his tales entertaining:
Many of us have been led to believe that Lykaste was the name of one of the Trojan princesses, daughter of King Priamos, who perished during the fall of Troy. Apparently there is not a single mention of this name among the king’s numerous children. Dr. Bodle delves deep into Ancient Classic Writings and then he states that in the Roman Literature of the 5th Century A.D., around the time of the Fall of the Roman Empire, the poet Claudian sings about a nymph named Lycaste (from Caliste = the Beautiful) whose long golden tresses are caught in equally golden nets and bows; this lady was said to have had many admirers, mad with love for her. A little further on in Claudian’s book, there is mention of another lovely maiden called Laceana. Dr. John Lindley must have been familiar with these writings because he coined the name Lycaste for the group we speak of and he also named a section of the Gongorinae after Laceana. A different poet who mentions the name Lycaste is the poet Nonnos, from about the same time, who describes her as the lovely nurse maid of Dionysos – again a somewhat tenuous connection to madness!
Lycaste Nootka 'Hannah'
Dr. Bodle continues: “…The myth about Lycaste linguella slowly gives place to a fuller understanding of these lovely species. The whole genus embodies the gracefulness and attraction of members of the plant kingdom in a special way. They who follow the exciting discoveries of the Lycastes will also be reminded of their Maenad nature. Spirits of the forests are shy and rarely observed by humans. Persons who succumb to the influence of a nymph become maniacal – their minds will be inflamed. They must become either totally ecstatic or demented. Once you are caught in Lycaste’s golden nets, you will realize this.”
It seems that not only the lovely Lycastes and Idas will cause orchid-mania; I have noticed that most any orchid will do.