Orchids which grow wild in the West Indies, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Brazil. As they are distributed so widely, they vary greatly, but all are epiphytal and evergreen and produce short flower stems from the base of the pseudobulbs, each stem bearing only one flower. Most of them bloom in spring and winter. The name Maxillaria is from maxillae, the jaws of an insect, from a fancied resemblance of the column and lip of some kinds to an insect’s jaws.
Orchids for the Greenhouse. Most kinds require only moderate heat and may be grown in a greenhouse with a minimum winter night temperature of 50-55 degrees. The atmosphere must be kept moist and shade from bright sunshine is required. Ventilation must be given freely in warm weather. In spring and autumn care should be taken that water is not allowed to remain on the leaves. Water may be given freely in summer, but in winter less liberally.
Repotting should be done early in the year, in February or March, or as soon as the flowers are over. Those kinds with ascendent rhizomes, like M. tenuifolia, should be supported by sticks.
The best potting compost consists of three parts cut osmunda fiber to one part of sphagnum moss. A little loam may be added for the stronger-growing kinds and extra moss for the smaller ones. In repotting, which need not be done annually, it may be necessary to divide large plants, for often the roots form a tangled mass, and the fresh material can be placed so that the new roots will enter it.
The Chief Kinds. M. grandiflora, a winterand spring-flowering Peruvian Orchid, is a favorite on account of its large flowers, 3 or 4 in. across, with white sepals and petals, and white and yellow lip marked with crimson; these are pleasantly scented, but not so fragrant as those of M. venusta, with large flowers which are white, except for the yellow disc to the lip. M. Sanderiana has the largest flowers, often 6 in. across, very fleshy, with white or yellowish ground blotched with deep red. This plant should be set in an orchid basket as the short flower stems often grow downwards.
M. picta has flowers barely 2 in. in diameter; they are prettily marked with yellow and red, and deliciously fragrant. In M. tenuifolia the flowers are of medium size, rich red, marked with yellow.
Other kinds worthy of note are M. luteo-alba, M. Huebschii, M. Fletcheriana and M. striata.