Phrag. besseae (1981)
Habitat Information:

Geographic Distribution:: Peru, Ecuador

Elevation: 3800 ft. (Cash:1991)

Blooming Season (North): Free blooming, best blooms usually in the colder months. Cooler temps help produce more vivid colors, but better light is usually available in the Spring.

Light requirements: Medium - 1000-2000 fc. According to Baker & Baker (1991), 12-1500 cf.

Temperatures : Phrag besseae grows well and blooms best in cooler temperatures. They are not very tolerant of high temps; much time above the mid 80s F can be dangerous. Baker & Baker supply daytime average temperatures between 78-81 F, and night time temps 59-63 F. This is a considerable difference, between day and night, but seasonal variation is very subtle; "winter" temps are 4-5 degrees F cooler.

Substrate: In their natural habitat, besseae are terrestrial, frequently growing near running water. Their roots may even penetrate the mosses and other organic material of the stream banks and grow in the running water. The water in question is rain that has run though the organic material of the tropical and semi-tropical forrests, picking up a a low pH. Consequently, besseae and its hybrids should be grown in an acidic medium, with a pH around 6.

Water: Besseae grow well with abundant, PURE water. They require either distilled, rain, or reverse osmosis water, as the minerals in tap water may be dangerous to them. They are well suited to semi-hydroponic culture.

Humidity: Higher than 50-60%. As you increase humidity, increase air movement to avoid fungal and bacterial infections.

Phrag besseae forms the backbone of most of the Phrag breeding that has been done in the last 25 years. If you have a red or reddish Phrag, it has besseae somewhere in its ancestory. There is little doubt that besseae was the most important phrag of the 20th Century (just as kovachii promises to be for the 21st).

If you plan on growing besseae, you should have little trouble as long as you can provide good water and relatively cool temperatures. I grow mine in a variety of different mixes; I have yet to settle on one that is better than the rest. Since I grow them semi-hydroponically, I've been using aliflor, rock wool, sponge rock, diatomite and sometimes bark, all in various combinations. Whatever you choose, make sure that it retains plenty of moisture but allows for good air movement and drains well.

Phrag besseae
Many thanks to Chuck Taylor from Fatoldbaldguy Orchids in Edmonton, Canada, for the use of his beautiful Phrag besseae photo.