Japan is home to potentially the most cold hardy of all Cymbidium orchids, C. goeringii. This remarkable plant lives further north than any other member of the genus, even up to southern Hokkaido (Okushiri Island, 42 degrees north latitude), where it endures below freezing temperatures from late fall through early spring. An added bonus is the amazing fragrance of its long lasting flowers.
Cymbidium goeringii is an evergreen orchid with below ground pseudobulbs and long, grass-like leaves. The pseudobulbs are round and flattened somewhat, growing at tight intervals along the thick rhizome. The roots are many, thick, fleshy and white, and up to a half meter long. The leaves number 4-5 per growth, each being 12-40 cm long and about 1 cm wide. In early fall flower shoots form at the base of that season’s growth. They are thickest at the middle and come to point; 3-4 cm long and about 1 cm wide. This shoot remains in stasis until late March or early April when it begins to grow into a thick flower stalk to a height of 12-25 cm. It is graced with a single flower (very rarely two), and covered by a number of alternating white to green sheaths. The flower is 4-5 cm across.
The sepals and petals are bright emerald green with purple striations and sometimes blotching. The dorsal sepal always bends forward over the lip, but the lower sepals either are cupped forward as well, or they flare out laterally, looking like wings. The petals are always cupped forward and very tightly cover the column. The lip is white overall with purple blotches and is also yellow at its point of attachment. It is strongly recurved back to the point of making contact with its base on the underside of the flower. The ovary is purple-pink in color and covered by a large pinkish-white sheath. If pollinated, the seed pod grows vertically rather than staying in the same position as the flower, and grows to a remarkable size. Plants can remain as single growths for years or sometimes become large clumps numbering 15 or more flowering stems.
This species is found throughout Japan from Kyushu to southern Hokkaido (Okushiri Island) as well as Korea and China. Chinese plants can be quite different looking and multi-flowered (e.g., v. longibracteatum). It is found in an array of habitats, from moist woodlands, conifer plantations, to pine forests on seaside sand dunes. The preferred habitat seems to be on extremely steep rocky slopes that are almost vertical. In these places in can grow as a near lithophyte on the thin humus over bedrock. Found from sea-level to ~800 meters on Kyushu.
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