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October 4, 2017 | Nick Snakenberg, Curator of Tropical Collections and Associate Director of Horticulture

Denver Botanic Gardens’ orchid collection consists of nearly 1,000 species from over 280 genera. Many of these plants are rotated onto public display but there are specimens in our collections that don’t often make it out of our collection greenhouses. Hopefully, this blog will provide a bit of virtual access to the plants in the Gardens' orchid collection.

Warczewiczella discolor is a showy orchid native to Cuba, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama and parts of South America and is named in honor of Josef Warszewicz. Warszewicz was born in Wilno, Lithuania in 1812 where he joined the staff of Jundzill’s Botanical Garden at an early age. He began work at the Berlin Botanic Garden in 1840 and in 1845 was hired by the Van Houtte greenhouses to travel to Guatemala to collect tropical seeds and plants for resale in Belgium. After yellow fever forced his return to Europe, he became director of the Krakow Botanical Gardens. Upon his death in 1866, the entirety of his herbarium collections were left to the Berlin Botanic Garden.

The genus Warczewiczella includes 11 species including W. discolor which was first described in 1852. They can be found growing epiphytically on large tree limbs in humid sub-montane and montane forest. They enjoy some shade, cool temperatures and lots of humidity. The flowers are long lasting, have a light spicy fragrance and have a pendant habit. The required cool growing conditions of this plant means it does not often make it out of our collections greenhouses for public display but this plant has been under our care since 1972!

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