Want of it stands at the bottom of all his disappointments, perhaps. The very great majority of orchids, such as I refer to, have their home in the tropics; even the "cool" Odontoglots and Masdevallias owe that quality to their mountaineering habit, not to latitude. They live so near the equator that sunshine descends almost perpendicularly and the sun shines for more than half the year.
When Lindley wrote his "Genera and Species" in 1836, three species of Masdevallias only were known to botanists but twenty-five years later, when he prepared his "Folio Orchidaceae," nearly forty species were; known in herbaria, and to-day perhaps fully a hundred kinds are grown in our gardens, while travelers tell us of all the gorgeous beauties which are known to exist high up on the cloud-swept sides of the Andes and Cordilleras of the New World.
Masdevallias are so attractive to insects, by striking colour, as a rule, and sometimes by strong smell so very easily fertilized also that we should expect many natural hybrids in the genus. They are not forthcoming, however.
We enter the second of the range of greenhouses, also devoted to Odontoglossums, Masdevallias, and "cool" genera, as crowded as the last; pass down it to the corridor, and return through number three, which is occupied by Cattleyas and such. There is a lofty mass of rock in front, with a pool below, and a pleasant sound of splashing water.
I have been speaking hitherto of Colombian Odontoglossums, which are reckoned among the hardiest of their class. Along with them, in the same temperature, grow the cool Masdevallias, which probably are the most difficult of all to transport. There was once a grand consignment of Masdevallia Schlimii, which Mr. Roezl despatched on his own account.
A clear, strong, golden yellow is the colour that would have been wanting in our cool houses had not the Oncidium supplied it. Shades of lemon and buff are frequent among Odontoglossums, but, in a rough, general way of speaking, they have a white ground. Masdevallias give us scarlet and orange and purple; Lycastes, green and dull yellow; Sophronitis, crimson; Mesospinidium, rose, and so forth.
On the day they were put up to auction news of Livingstone's death arrived, and in a flash of inspiration Roezl christened his novelty M. Livingstoniana. Few, indeed, even among authorities, know where that rarest of Masdevallias has its home; none have reached Europe since. A pretty flower it is white, rosy tipped, with yellow "tails."
This which we enter is devoted to Odontoglossum crispum, with a few Masdevallias. There were twenty-two thousand pots in it the other day; several thousand have been sold, several thousand have been brought in, and the number at this moment cannot be computed. Our farmer has no time for speculative arithmetic; he deals in produce wholesale.
Of all the cultivated Masdevallias, none are so weirdly strange and fascinating as is the species M. chimaera, which is so well illustrated in the accompany engraving. This singular plant was discovered by Benedict Roezl, and about 1872 or 1873 I remember M. Lucien Linden calling upon me one day, and among other rarities showing me a dried flower of this species.
Speaking generally, Masdevallias, coming as most of them do from high altitudes, lend themselves to what is now well known as "cool treatment," and cultivators find it equally necessary to offer them moisture in abundance both at the root and in the atmosphere, also seeing that when at home in cloud-land they are often and well nigh continually drenched by heavy dews and copious showers.