The orchid genus Dracula consists of 118 species. The strange name Dracula, literally means "little dragon", referring to the strange aspect of the two long spurs of the sepals. The first Dracula was found by plant hunters in the 1870's
These epiphytic and terrestrial species are distributed in Central America and the northwest Andes, almost half in Ecuador alone. They prefer shadow and an even, rather cold, temperature.
These caespitose orchids grow in tufts from a short rhizome, with a dense pack of stems. They lack pseudobulbs. On each stems grows one large, thin, plicate leaf with a sharply defined midrib. These glabrous, light to dark green leaves may be spongy, taking over the function of the missing pseudobulb. They are tipped with a mucro (a short tip).
The flower stalks grow either horizontally from the base of the plant or descend, often for great distances. A few species grow upright flower stalks. The long-tailed terminal flowers are basically triangular. The flowers are borne singly or successively. Three species (sodiroi, decussata/neisseniae, and papillosa) may have up to three simultaneously open flowers on a single stalk. In general, though, if there is more than one flower bud on the raceme, they open up with long intervals. These flowers have a weird aspect, due to the long tails on each sepal. The petals are small and somewhat thickened. The lip is often quite large for a Pleurothallid and may resemble a mushroom or fungus. The fleshy basal part of the lip (hypochile) is cleft. The terminal part (epichile) is rounded and concave. The margins of the perianth are often fringed. There is a well-developed column with two pollinia.
The earliest recorded man made Dracula cross is Dracula Vanneriana in 1893. Dracula Vanneria is a cross between Dracula wallisii and Dracula roezlii.
Keep plants in a moist mix of fine bark or sphagnum moss. Do not let mix dry. Plants should watered regularly. Plants require cool temperatures and shade.
They were once included in the genus Masdevallia, but became a separate genus in 1978 when it was separated by Dr. Carlyle Luer. This genus has some of the more bizarre and well-known species of the subtribe Pleurothallidinae. The genus was named after the "little dragon" appearance of the flowers, and their love of shady and humid forests.
The species of Dracula have tentatively been divided in three subgenera, sections and subsections. The different series in the subsection Dracula are merely an attempt to classify these orchids.
- Subgenus Dracula : This subgenus contains all the species of the genus except two exceptional species (D. sodiroi and D. xenos)
- Section Andreettaea : Monotypic: Dracula andreettae
- Section Chestertonia : two species: Dracula chestertonii, D. cutis-bufonis
- Section Cochliopsida : Monotypic: Dracula cochliops
- Section Dodsonia : Four species: Dracula dodsonii, D. insolita, D. iricolor, D. portillae
- Section Dracula : largest section
- Subsection Costatae : e.g. Dracula bella, D. vespertilio
- Subsection Dracula :
- Series Dracula : e.g. Dracula chimaera, D. tubeana, D. vampira
- Series Grandiflorae-Parvilabiatae : e.g. Dracula gigas, D. platycrater
- Series Parviflorae : e.g. Dracula houtteana, D. lotax
- Subgenus Sodiroa : Monotypic: Dracula sodiroi
- Subgenus Xenosia : Monotypic : Dracula xenos
The type species is Dracula chimaera
- Dracula × anicula (D. cutis-bufonis × D. wallisii) (Colombia).
- Dracula × radiosyndactyla (D. radiosa × D. syndactyla) (SW. Colombia).
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- Luer, Carlyle A. 1978: Dracula, a New Genus in the Pleurothallidinae. Selbyana 2: 190-198.
- Luer, Carlyle A. 1993: Icones Pleurothallidinarum X - Systematics of Dracula. Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden Vol. 46.
- Hermans, Johan & Clare. Orchid Digest special publication: An Annotation Checklist on the Genus Dracula. Orchid Digest Corp., 1997.