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The genus Dracula

The genus Dracula, the monkey face orchids - Trey Sanders


Dracula is a genus of 135 species, located from Mexico to Peru. In 1978, Carl Luer established the genus Dracula; before then, they were within the genus Masdevallia. Most of the known Dracula species are from Columbia and Ecuador inhabiting wet mossy rainforests. Some species are endemic to a single valley or mountain and are assessed as endangered in the wild. Researchers even think that a couple of species could now be extinct in the wild. Seventy-nine Dracula species occur at elevations of between 900 to 2,000 metres and 38% of these are endemic to this climatic zone. There are a couple of species found within warmer elevations

I particularly like Dracula because of their unusual flowers, suitability for my growing conditions and because they like to be grown wet. Some of the flowers can attain lengths of 30 cm + from tail to tail, which make them amongst the largest of all orchid flowers

The inflorescences on most Dracula are horizontal to pendent, meaning that they emerge and flower beneath the plant. The inflorescences on many species are also sequential; meaning that when one flower has finished the next flower bud will develop and then flower.

As a grower, I always research climatic and local conditions from where my orchids occur naturally because

this approach helps me understand the needs of the plant and will enable me to grow my plant successfully. Of course, I still loose many plants and get it wrong.

The things that Dracula seem to need the most are humidity, cool to chilly evenings, shade, and a lot of quality water. I place my Dracula orchids in a net pot or in a wooden basket and sit the baskets or pots in a tray with a small amount of water. This not only prevents the plants from drying out but also increases the relative humidity. Once I see an inflorescence emerge, I take the basket or pot out of the water and hang it up. Be careful when watering while there are spikes as the smallest drop of water on the end of the spike will cause the spike to rot. High humidity and constant water prevent brown leaf tips and prevents the spikes and flower buds aborting; however, when growing in humidity levels above 80% as I sometimes do, air circulation is essential to prevent rotting new growths. Inflorescences will sometimes ‘sit there’ and wait for the relative humidity to reach a certain level before growing further. Dracula are better suited to a greenhouse or terrarium rather than indoors because of their cultural needs. Dracula need a lot of shade and do not like bright light. There needs to be a considerable difference between day and night temperatures, an effective way of knowing if the temperature is right for the plant is to feel the leaves. Dracula leaves need to be cool too cold to the touch. However, there are still several species which are not as fussy and will grow and flower indoors.

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