Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

CYRTOPODIUM MACROBULBON

from the January 29, 2012 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO
A BIG, TERRESTRIAL ORCHIED

Along a dirt trail through the scrub just north of Pisté I came upon the knee-high orchid shown above. At first I thought it was a fallen Catasetum integerrimum, our most common orchid species, even though that orchid is much smaller, seldom falls from its host tree, and both its leaves and pseudopods (succulent stem swellings below the leaves, scaly-white in the picture) are shorter and broader. But the triangular, white scales on this orchid's pseudopods are really striking, unlike anything I've ever seen on a Catasetum. A closer look at them, revealing them to be the petiole bases of faded, discarded leaves, is shown below:

CYRTOPODIUM MACROBULBON, pseudobulbs covered with pale leaf petioles

A 2-1/3-inch long (6cm), capsular fruit hung from a panicle branch rising above the plant. It's shown below:

CYRTOPODIUM MACROBULBON fruit

On the Internet it was easy to identify such a singular orchid. It's CYRTOPODIUM MACROBULBON, known to occur here, but still there's little information about it, other than that it's terrestrial and seems to occur spottily from Mexico through Central America into northern South America.

Internet pictures show pseudobulbs from which the white scales have fallen leaving horizontal rings around the green pseudobulbs. Sometimes numerous flowerless, fruitless and leafless pseudobulbs poke from bare ground like clusters of thick cigars standing on their ends.

I've not seen this species before, and it was the only plant in the area. Its inflorescence was large and diffuse with thumbnail-size flowers. You can see someone else's page showing flowers at http://www.abundaflora.com/Cyrt_macrobulbon.htm.

How would it be to be such a lonely, flamboyant being deep in the Yucatán scrub? How would it be to be a Maya farmer hiking down the trail with a sack of corn on his shoulders, pausing to see this plant in flower right there beside his way?