Prosthechea cochleata

Prosthechea cochleata or Cockleshell Orchid is a black orchid. Or at least in part: the labellum, which is placed over the flower and forms a hood, is dark purple, almost black.

This orchid is grown for its original and long blooming flower that lasts up to 6 months.

It is the national flower of Belize.

It belongs to the family of Orchidaceae, sub-family Epidendroideae, tribe Epidendreae, sub-tribe Laeliinae, alliance Epidendrum, genus Prosthechea.


Each oblong pseudo-bulb bears one or two linear non-succulent leaves.

The flowers are unusual because the lip is generally below the column in orchids while among members Prosthechea, the lip forms a hood above the column. Hence, the flower is upside down. While the Prosthechea usually have 1 anther, Prosthechea cochleata is a self-pollinating variety with three anthers.

The flowers appear on an apical and erected flower stem, measuring up to 40 cm, where the flowers appear and bloom successively.

Flowering can last six months, starting in the spring.


Anacheilium cochleatum, Aulizeum cochleatum, Encyclia cochleata, Encyclia lancifolia, Epidendrum cochleatum, Epidendrum cochleatum var. costaricense, Epidendrum cochleatum var. pallidum, Epidendrum lancifolium, Hormidium cochleatum, Phaedrosanthus cochleatus


Central America, the Caribbean, Colombia, Venezuela and South Florida


Epiphyte on trees in moist woods and swamps. This species is often found in rain forests, on vertical trunks of large trees between 2 and 20 m high, in a micro-habitat above other more shade tolerant orchids.


Prosthechea: from the Greek prostheke (appendage), referring to the appendix tissue on the back of the column
Cochleata: from the Latin cochleata (spoon-shaped), referring to the appearance of the lip.



Cold temperate to warm temperate, 15 °C minimum


60-80% but well ventilated


Bright place but avoid direct sunlight in summer, the brightest possible place in winter, even in the sun.


Keep the substrate moist in any season, the need for water is reduced in winter when growth is slower.


Special substrate for orchids.


Provide specialized orchid fertilizer once a month.


Every 2-3 years, in the spring, when the plant becomes too large for the pot.


Pseudo-bulbs: in the spring, when repotting the new pseudo-bulbs that have developed can be taken from the mother plant.