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Pleasures of Life Dept.

Top of the World

The Cattleya maxima “Southern Pines Striata”

By Jason Harpster

The American Orchid Society gave an Award of Merit to Cattleya maxima “Southern Pines Striata” on Oct. 15, 2022. This plant, along with one other that was recognized with a similar award in Colombia in 2014, shares the honor of being the finest example of flower quality for the species on record in the world. The judges commented on the extraordinary arrangement and spacing of the nine flowers along the inflorescence (the cluster of flowers aligned on a stem). They were also impressed by how the bright white blooms were enhanced by fuchsia striations on the petals, and the deep fuchsia veining and golden-yellow color on the lip. When viewed in sunlight, the crystalline texture makes these flowers sparkle. “Southern Pines Striata” was chosen as a clonal name to highlight these properties as well as to honor and recognize the author’s hometown.

A species from Ecuador and Peru, Cattleya maxima was described in 1833. Maxima is Latin for “greatest,” which is an appropriate name for this orchid as it is one of the only Cattleyas capable of producing several large, well-arranged flowers on an inflorescence. Cattleya maxima can have flowers that are over 7 inches across, with a distinctive lip that has a yellow stripe with richly colored veining, making the blooms quite attractive and readily identifiable.

Another interesting trait of the species is the multitude of horticultural forms with colors ranging from lavender, dark purple (rubra), white (alba), white with a fuchsia lip (semi-alba), blue (coerulea), rose-pink (carnea) and concolor. Some of these forms can have additional veining on the petals, which is very desirable.  PS

Jason Harpster is an accredited American Orchid Society judge and works at his family’s business, Central Security Systems. He hopes to share his collection of 1,500-plus orchids by starting a botanical garden in Southern Pines.