For the genus of moths see:, see Laelia (moth).
Laelia anceps
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Epidendreae
Subtribe: Laeliinae
Alliance: Cattleya
Genus: Laelia
Lindl., 1831

See text.

Laelia is a small genus of 25 species[1] from the orchid family (Orchidaceae). This is one of the most important and popular orchid genera, because of the beautiful flowers, their genetic properties and because they are fairly easy to cultivate. John Lindley did not specify his reasons for naming this orchid as he did;[2] one possibility is that he named it after Laelia, one of the Vestal Virgins. Laelia is abbreviated L. in the horticultural trade.[3]

Laelia species are found in the subtropical or temperate climate of Central America, but mostly in Mexico. Laelia speciosa is a high-elevation plant, preferring sunny, dry and cool conditions. The others grow in the rainforest with a warm, humid summer and a dry cool winter. The species L. albida, L. anceps and L. autumnalis prefer higher and cooler altitudes.

Laelia is one of the orchid genera known to use crassulacean acid metabolism photosynthesis,[4] which reduces evapotranspiration during daylight because carbon dioxide is collected at night.

Most are epiphytes, but a few are lithophytes, such as Laelia anceps. They are closely related to Cattleya, but have twice as many pollinia. Stems are usually short, however the stem of Laelia anceps can be more than 1 m long. The ovate pseudobulbs are clearly separate. These are about 6 – 30 cm long. One or two waxy, leathery leaves develop from each pseudobulb. This leaf can be up to 20 cm long. The inflorescence is a raceme, which can be 30 cm long, with up to eight flowers, growing from the top of the pseudobulb. These flowers can be pink to purple, with a beautifully colored purple lip becoming white close to the column . They bloom in spring or autumn. Albino varieties are rare and therefore prized. Due to high demand for such a rare mutations, many horticultural labs use modern tissue culture or mericloning techniques to increase their availability.

Members of this genus tend to be fairly easy in culture, and some plants are surprisingly drought-tolerant. Culture is highly dependent upon the natural habitat of the species in question, although many do well as mounted (plaqued) specimens so that the roots receive plenty of air circulation and a sharp wet-and-dry cycle.

The Brazilian Laelias, after being classified for several years under Sophronitis,[5] have now been placed in the genus Cattleya.

Species formerly placed in the genus Schomburgkia have been moved either to the genus Laelia or Myrmecophila.[6]

Laelia species readily form hybrids within the genus, and with other genera, including Cattleya, Brassavola, and Rhyncholaelia.


Laelia gouldiana


The genus Amalia Rchb. is generally included here.


  1. "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families".
  2. John Lindley (1830–1840). The genera and species of orchidaceous plants. Ridgways; available from Biodiversity Heritage Library. p. 115.
  3. "Alphabetical list of standard abbreviations of all generic names occurring in current use in orchid hybrid registration as at 31st December 2007". Royal Horticultural Society.
  4. Gilberto Barbante Kerbauy; Cassia Ayumi Takahashi; Alejandra Matiz Lopez; Aline Tiemi Matsumura; Leonardo Hamachi; Lucas Macedo Félix; Paula Natália Pereira; Luciano Freschi; Helenice Mercier (2012). "Crassulacean Acid Metabolism in Epiphytic Orchids: Current Knowledge, Future Perspectives". Applied Photosynthesis, Dr Mohammad Najafpour (Ed.), ISBN 978-953-510-061-4.
  5. C. van den Berg; M. W. Chase (2000). "Nomenclatural notes on Laeliinae – I.". Lindleyana. 15 (2): 115–119.
  6. AOS article "Farewell Schomburgkia"
  7. "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families".
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