Brassavola cucullata

Brassavola cucullata on statiaDo you know the common name of this wonderful white-flowered orchid? The Brassavola cucullata is both an epiphytic (grows on trees) and a lithophytic (grows on rocks) species of orchid thriving on St. Eustatius. It grows in the Quill and on Boven and has an ornate white flower with long tendrils.

The B. cucullata flowers have an average size of 17.5 cm (~6.9″) and are fragrant especially at night. The orchid can be found at elevations ranging from 0 to 1800 m (~0 to 5900 ft). This species extends its range in the West Indies from Mexico through Central America and Colombia and is also present in Trinidad, Guyana and Venezuela.

STENAPA has been collaborating with the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) since 2008 on a long-term monitoring programme to assess the health and viability of this species of orchid, along with another species called Epidendrum ciliare. Each year during the peak flowering season (June/July), the two populations of orchids are visited and data is collected on each plant: leaf count, longest leaf and flower measurements. STENAPA researchers also note whether the orchid has been pollinated and whether it has a fruit (the sign of a successful pollination). Generally, orchids receive very few visits from pollinators and therefore have low reproductive rates. It is not known what pollinator visits this species but is mostly likely a nocturnal moth or hawkmoth.

Additionally, UPR is working with the Saba Conservation Foundation to monitor the same species on Saba.

There is now five years worth of data and Dr. Ackerman hopes to write a paper with some preliminary results in the near future. This is an ongoing project that fits well into the long-term biodiversity and monitoring programmes of STENAPA Saba Conservation Foundation.

(Information partly provided by H. Madden)