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Spider orchid
Brassia arcuigera.jpg
Brassia arcuigera
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Cymbidieae
Subtribe: Oncidiinae
Genus: Brassia
R.Br., 1813
Type species
Brassia maculata
R.Br. in W.T.Aiton (1813)
  • Brachtia Rchb.f.
  • Mesospinidium Rchb.f.
  • Ada Lindl.
  • Oncodia Lindl.
  • Brassiopsis Szlach. & Górniak

Brassia is a genus of orchids classified in the subtribe Oncidiinae. It is native to Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and northern South America, with one species (B. caudata) extending into Florida.[1][2]

The genus was named after William Brass, a British botanist and illustrator, who collected plants in Africa under the supervision of Sir Joseph Banks. Its abbreviation in the horticultural trade is Brs.[3]


Brassia species and its popular hybrids are common in cultivation, and are notable for the characteristic long and spreading tepals (in some clones longer than 50 cm), which lend them the common name spider orchid. The grex Eternal Wind is a recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[4]

This epiphytic genus occurs in wet forests from sea level to altitudes under 1500 m, with the Peruvian Andes as its center of diversity. Occurrence is mostly restricted to a certain area, but Brassia caudata can be found over the whole geographic area.

They have large elliptic-oblong pseudobulbs with one or two leaves at the apex, lateral, unbranched many-flowered inflorescences with small floral bracts. The lip is not attached to the column. The pollinarium shows a narrow stipe. There are two distichous, foliaceous sheaths around the base, from which the inflorescence emerges.

Brassia has a very specific method for pollination; it uses entomophily - pollination by insects - and in this case specifically by female spider-hunter wasps of the genera Pepsis and Campsomeris. Mistaken by the mimicry of Brassia, the wasp stings the lip, while trying to grasp its prey without any success. By these movements the wasp comes into contact with the pollinarium, that then sticks to its head. By flying to another Brassia flower, this flower gets pollinated.

List of species[edit]

Species accepted as of May 2014:[1]

Intergeneric hybrids[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  2. ^ Flora of North America v 26 p 646, Brassia caudata
  3. ^ "My Huge List of Orchid Abbreviations".
  4. ^ "Brassia Eternal Wind gx". RHS. Retrieved 12 April 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ page 20 of Archived 2010-06-16 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]

  • Pupulin, F. and Bogarin, D.: The genus Brassia in Costa Rica : A survey of four species and a new species ; Lindleyana, March 2005 - - On line [1]

April 2013 - - On line [2]

  • Dressler, R.L., and N.H. Williams. 2003. New combinations in Mesoamerican Oncidiinae (Orchidaceae). Selbyana 24(1):44–45.
  • van der Pijl, L., and C.H. Dodson. 1966. Orchid Flowers: Their Pollination and Evolution. University of Miami Press, Coral Gables.