Epiphytic or terrestrial orchids with cylindrical rhizome from which the fleshy noodle-like roots grow. Pseudobulbs can be conical, spindle-shaped or cylindrical; with upright growth; one or two leaves growing from the top of them. The leaves can be oblong, lanceolate or elliptical, somewhat fleshy, with smooth margin. The inflorescence is a terminal raceme with few or several flowers. Flowers have sepals and petals free from each other; the lip or labellum (lowermost petal), usually has a different coloration and shape from the rest of the flower and covers in part the flower column forming a tube. There are four polliniums (bag-like organs that contain pollen). The fruit is a capsule with many small seeds.
The genus was named in 1824 by John Lindley after horticulturalist William Cattley. Cattley obtained a specimen of then unnamed Cattleya labiata from William Swainson who had discovered the new plant in Pernambuco, Brazil, in 1817. The plant successfully bloomed under the care of Cattley and it became the type specimen from which Lindley described C. labiata.
Photo captured February 25, 2018 at the Lincoln Park Conservatory.
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