Laelia autumnalis Lindl. 1831 SUBGENUS Laelia SECTION Podolaelia Schlechter Photo courtesy of Lourens Grobler

Plant and flowers Photo courtesy of Weyman Bussey

Plant and Flowers in situ as a lithophyte, central Mexico

Plant and Flowers in situ as an epiphyte, central Mexico

Photos courtesy of Edouard Faria


Common Name Autumn Flowering Laelia - In Mexico - Flor de los Muertos

Flower Size 3 to 4" [7.5 to 10 cm]

Found in Mexico in the central to southern mountains at elevations of 1500 to 2600 meters as a small to medium sized, cool to cold growing epiphyte or lithophyte, found on scrubby oaks and mossy rocks with bright light, a winter dormancy and night coolness with 2 to 3, leathery, lanceolate leaves per ovoid, subconical, to pyriform, tapering, curved, ridged and furrowed pseudobulbs that blooms in the fall and winter in cultivation on an erect, stout, red colored, 2 to 3' [60 to 90 cm] long, apical, covered with scale-like floral bracts, several to many flowered inflorescence with fragrant, waxy, long-lasting, color variable flowers.

L gouldiana and L autumnalis var gouldiana are certainly different although at first glance they appear the same. L goudiana has brighter colored flowers and a different lip shape but what sets the 2 species apart the most is the 3 calli of the lip. On L gouldiana the three calli are actually a flat 3 striped raised plain and in L autumnalis the three calli are three raised ridge lines.

The villagers of the central highlands of Mexico on the 1st and second of November celebrate All Saint's Day and the Day of the Dead. On these days many families make small candy images of pigs, cows, horses, skulls, fruit and other familiar objects created from the pseudobulbs of this species and Laelia speciosa. It is an ancient process handed down through the generations. The pseudobulbs are sliced into thin pieces that are then ground in the same way as flour and corn for totillas. The ensuing green, mucilaginous paste is mixed with water, flour, sugar, lemon juice and egg white and then let to sit for several days. At the proper time it is poured into wooden half molds, the 2 halves removed and pasted togethther and then decorated and painted with vegetable dyes to give the desired effect.

Synonyms Amalia autumnalis (Lex.) Heynh. 1846; Bletia autumnalis [Lindley]Rchb.f 1825; Cattleya autumnalis Beer 1854; Laelia autumnalis alba Rchb.f. 1889; Laelia autumnalis f. alba (Rchb.f.) M.Wolff & O.Gruss 2007; Laelia autumnalis f. atrorubens (Backh.f.) Halb. 1993; Laelia autumnalis f. xanthotrophis (Rchb.f.) Halb. & Soto Arenas 1997; Laelia autumnalis var. alba (Rchb.f.) B.S.Williams 1893; Laelia autumnalis var. atrorubens Backh.f. 1880; Laelia autumnalis var. venusta auct. 1884; Laelia autumnalis var. xanthotrophis Rchb.f. 1888; Laelia venusta Rolfe 1895

References W3 Tropicos, Kew Monocot list , IPNI ; The Orchids of Mexico and Guatemala Bateman 1843 drawing fide; Bonplandia Rchb.f 1856; Xenia Orchidaceae vol 2 Rchb.f 1862 as Bletia autumnalis; Die Orchideen Schlechter 1915; Die Orchideen Schlechter 1915 as l autumnalis var alba; Atlas des Orchidees Cultivees Constantin 1920 drawing fide; AOS Bulletin Vol 26 No 2 1957 drawing; AOS Bulletin Vol 28 No 5 1959; Encyclopedia of Cultivated Orchids Hawkes 1965; AOS Bulletin Vol 39 No 5 1970; Die Orchideen #6 21-24 tafel 7 Rudolph Schlechter 1971 drawing fide; Die Orchideen #10 37-40a tafel 10 Rudolph Schlechter 1971 photo fide; Orchid Digest Vol 42 No 1 1978 photo fide; AOS Bulletin Vol 47 No 6 1978; Flora Novo-Galaciana Vol 16 McVaugh 1985; AOS Bulletin Vol 56 No 9 1987 photo; An Introdution to the Orchids of Mexico Wiard 1987 photo fide; Cattleya and Their Relatives Vol 2 Withner 1990 photo fide; AOS Bulletin Vol 65 No 11 1996 photo;

Laelia autumnalis var atrorubens Lindley 1831 SUBGENUS Laelia SECTION Podolaelia Schlechter Photo courtesy of Robert Weyman Bussey


This particular clone came from the Volcano, Popocateptl at about 2300 meters in elevation.

Laelia autumnalis Pink variety 1831 SUBGENUS Laelia SECTION Podolaelia Schlechter Photo courtesy of Robert Weyman Bussey


This one is from the state of Michoacan, 1900 m elevation, very fragrant!

~Laelia autumnalis var. furfuracea [Lindley] Rolfe - See Laelia furfuracea Lindl. 1839

Laelia autumnalis var gouldiana Lindley 1831 SUBGENUS Laelia SECTION Podolaelia Schlechter Photo courtesy of Linda's Orchid Page


A Mexican epiphytic species that grows cool to cold and is found in montane oak forests or lithophytically on volcanic rocks at elevations of 1500-2200 meters, often in full sunlight and has club-shaped psuedobulbs that have two dark green leaves with pointed ends, and an inflorescence that arises from the apex of a partially developed psuedobulb. They have fragrant flowers in the winter if given good light and a dry winter rest.

Synonyms Laelia gouldiana Rchb.f 1888

Laelia autumnalis var. xanthotrophis Rchb.f. 1888


Found in Jalisco Mexico and blooms in the early summer on a 18" [45 cm] long, successively single flowered inflorescence. It is similar to autumnalis but blooms way before, almost the same season as eyermanniana. It grows in another valley in Jalisco about 100 miles from crawshayana (bancalari).

SynonymsLaelia autumnalis f. xanthotrophis (Rchb.f.) Halb. & Soto Arenas 1997;