Family : Orchidaceae
Text © Pietro Puccio
English translation by Mario Beltramini
The species is native to the humid forests of Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guyana, Galápagos, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Mexico (Campeche, Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Veracruz and Yucatán), Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, U.S.A. (Florida), Venezuela and Windward Islands.
The name of the genus is the combination of the Greek substantive “ἴον” (ion) = violet (Viola sp.) and “ὄψις” (opsis) = look, with reference to the shape of the flower; the specific name is the combination of the name of the genus Utricularia and of the Greek suffix “-οειδής” (-oeidés), from “εἶδος“ (êidos) = shape, look, due to the resemblance of the flowers with those of some species belonging to the aforementioned genus.
Common names: delicate ionopsis, delicate violet orchid (English); orquídea do café (Brazil); dancing ladies (Jamaica); angelitos (Puerto Rico).
The Ionopsis utricularioides (Sw.) Lindl. (1826) is an epiphytic species, rarely terrestrial, cespitous, with flat ellipsoid pseudobulbs, 1-3 cm long, often completely hidden by the foliar bases, provided or not of an apical leaf. Basal leaves, in number of 2-4, linear-lanceolate to oblong-linear, 3-15 cm long and 0,6-1,8 cm broad, coriaceous, of green colour often suffused of brown-reddish in conditions of high luminosity.
Racemose or paniculate inflorescences from the base of the pseudobulb, 20-70 cm long, erect or arcuate, bearing numerous flowers of colour from white with intense pink veins and pink shades, to pink, lavander or purple. Oblong-elliptic sepals, 4-6 mm long and 1-3 mm broad, the two lateral merged at the base forming a bilobed cavity behind the labellum, oblong petals with obtuse or pointed apex, 5-7 mm long and 3-4 mm broad, obcordate labellum, emarginate, with entire margin or crenulate, 8-17 mm long and 8-18 mm broad, provided of two yellow tubercles at the base. The fruit is an ellipsoid capsule 15-20 mm long and of about 5 mm of diameter. It reproduces by seed, in vitro and division.
One of the most diffused American orchids with the long blooming period and the tiny delicate flowers produced abundantly, requires high luminosity, medium-high temperatures in summer, 20-32 °C, slightly cooler in winter with lowest ones preferably not under the 16 °C, high ambient humidity, 75-90%, and air maintained in constant movement. Frequent and abundant waterings during the growth period, utilizing rain water, demineralized or by reverse osmosis, slightly more spaced in winter, but without allowing the substratum to dry up completely, and monthly fertilizations, from spring to autumn, utilizing a hydrosoluble balanced product, with microelements at ¼ of the dosage reported on the package.It is usually mounted on trunks, bark, cork or arborescent ferns roots rafts with some sphagnum at the base to maintain the humidity, less frequently in pot with very draining and aerated compost, that may be formed by medium sliced fragments of bark, of roots of arborescent ferns or of coir, with possible addition of inerts in order to improve the drainage. Transplants and repottings are to be done by the vegetative restart only when strictly necessary and disturbing the least possible to rooting apparatus.
The species is reported in the appendix II of the CITES (species whose trade is internationally ruled).
Synonyms: Epidendrum utricularioides Sw. (1788); Dendrobium utricularioides (Sw.) Sw. (1799); Ionopsis pulchella Kunth (1816); Iantha pallidiflora Hook. (1824); Cybelion pallidiflorum (Hook.) Spreng. (1826); Cybelion pulchellum (Kunth) Spreng. (1826); Cybelion utriculariae Spreng. (1826); Epidendrum crenatum Vell. (1831); Ionopsis pallidiflora (Hook.) Lindl. (1836); Ionopsis paniculata Lindl. (1836); Ionopsis tenera Lindl. (1836); Scaphyglottis pallidiflora (Hook.) Lindl. (1839); Cybelion tenerum (Lindl.) Steud. (1840); Ionopsis gardneri Lindl. (1851); Ionopsis zonalis Lindl. (1851); Ionopsis tenera var. effusa Lindl. (1852); Ionopsis tenera var. tomentosa Lindl. (1852); Ionopsis tenera var. violace a Lindl. (1852); Epidendrum paniculatum (Lindl.) Rchb.f. (1865); Ionopsis paniculata var. maxima L.Linden & Rodigas (1887); Epidendrum calcaratum Sessé & Moc. (1894); Ionopsis utricularioides f. latifolia Urb. (1903); Ionopsis utricularioides var. angustifolia Cogn. (1904); Ionopsis utricularioides var. parviflora Schltr. (1922); Epidendrum sessei Hoehne (1952); Ionopsis utricularioides var. virginalis L.C.Menezes (1993); Ionopsis utricularioides f. virginalis (L.C.Menezes) Christenson (1996).