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Laelia tenebrosa is a closely related species to L.
purpurata, and its distribution range
is basically in the State of Espírito Santo, although it goes a bit into Rio de Janeiro. Reports that the
species goes up to the southern part of the State of Bahia, just above E. Santo, can't be confirmed as the rain
forest there has been totally destroyed. Chances are, however, that it has been confused with Laelia grandis which occurs there. Actually, confusion between the two species had occurred very frequently
in the past and it goes on even today, although in a much smaller scale. Laelia tenebrosa
is one of the showiest species in the genus, and thus one of the showiest orchids at all. Considering that the
species grows in the tropical rain forest, the habitat is consequently not as exposed to sunlight as the ones of
Laelia purpurata, L.
lobata and L. crispa, and thus plants should be cultivated under shadier conditions than those. The plants are
large, up to about 2' tall, and very similar to the ones of Laelia purpurata,
although during development of the new growth the sheaths are not as tight. The flowers are up to 8" or more
across and wide open, and are produced up to 4 (very rarely more) on an inflorescence.
Distribution Map for Laelia tenebrosa.
The species has (or had) a wide distribution area for the genus, but most of its habitat has been destroyed so
the species is in advanced extinction threat. This is a low elevation species, growing from sea level to about
600 meters (2000 ft.) above sea level.
||Laelia tenebrosa varies quite a bit in terms of color. On 1, we see the
lighter color form, usually called 'Fumaçina'. It is more like greenish-brown with some reddish veining
and it is considered the least attractive color of the species. However, it seems that the best-shaped flowers
ever found are of this color, and this alone justifies growing them (and of course a lot of outcrossing with darker
ones has been made to improve this aspect while trying to keep the shape). On these lighter-colored flowers, the
lip is usually white with just a purple ring on the throat. Actually, the base color of the lip is always white,
the thing is that sometimes the purple color extends to the point of covering it all as on the next pictures. And
as always, there is the whole spectrum of intermediate forms between the lighter and the darker flowers, and that
is why I always insist that people stop trying to give varietal names to any slightly different color.
On 2, we have an extremely dark Laelia
tenebrosa, and is easy to see that
the purple spreads to the whole lip. On 3, we have probably the darkest colored Laelia tenebrosa, not especially on the lip, but on sepals and petals. Shape in these two cases is not very
good, but these will impart (hopefully) dark color to their seedlings. And finally, on 4 we have an
albino form of the species. As it can be seen, color of the segments is green and lip is white. However, with intense
light, the green turns to yellow, and so there are NOT two different colored albinos, one green and one yellow,
but just ONE, color depending on light intensity.