Central America, West Indies, Colombia, Venezuela, Florida, Belize.
This South American species is the national flower of the country of Belize, next to Guatemala. It has flattened pear-shaped pseudobulbs up to 18cms tall. The flowers resemble the shape of an octopus in water, with their thin green sepals and petals that droop down below the rounded, dark purple, almost black lip. It flowers from almost sea level to 2000m (6250ft).
This species has the honor of being the first tropical epiphytic orchid to flower at Kew Gardens, England in 1787. Several flowers are produced at a time in succession on an inflorescence, which on a mature plant can continue flowering for up to two years. Such is the vigor of species that this in no way impairs its new growth, with the result that two years inflorescences can be in flower at the same time.
It is one of the few orchids that can be repotted while in bloom. This will be necessary when the new growth has started in the spring.
The old leafless pseudobulbs can be removed for propagation. When potted up singly they will be ready to develop new growths.
This is an excellent species for beginners and expert alike, and it can be grown successfully indoors.
In the Manly Warringah area of Sydney, Australia it handles temperatures from 1º to 40º C+.