Sculpted edges - sometimes with small frills - and large flowers with an enormous lip - these are what make Cattleya one of the most recognisable orchids.
Colours and shapes
Cattleya is a distinctive houseplant with a psuedobulb on which there are just a couple of thick leaves. There are large and small flowered Cattleyas: the small flowered species have more flowers per stem than the large flowered. The flowers are usually ten to twenty centimetres in diameter, and range in colour from white through yellow, orange, green, pink, purple to fabulous pastels. Some are beautifully scented, which has earned Cattleya the nickname ‘Queen of the Orchids’.
English orchid collector William Cattleya gave the Cattleya its name. The orchid has no specific symbolic meaning, but is associated with fertility and virility. The expression 'to catleya' ('faire catleya' or 'arranger les catleyas') is a euphemism for amorous goings-on between Odette and Swann in Marcel Proust’s 'À la recherche du temps perdu’.
Cattleya is a tropical orchid which only occurs in South and Central America. It’s an epiphyte, which means that it lives on trees and bark without drawing nutrients from them. As ecological competition in the jungle is fierce, Cattleya often opts for height and establishes itself high up in trees. Of all the orchids, Cattleya has the most varied appearance. All Cattleyas also have fairly hard leaves. This indicates that they get a reasonably large amount of light or sun in their natural environment, and therefore need it indoors as well.