Masdevallia herradurae, the “Horseshoe Masdevallia,” is a miniature orchid species from Columbia and Ecuador. Unlike many masdevallias, M. herradurae is a warm to cool grower, so if you fear the temperature requirements of the cool growers (and you shouldn’t), this species is a great choice. Even better, it blooms nearly year round, and there are lots of dark purple flowers to enjoy. What’s not to love?
Masdevallia is a New World genus named for Dr. Jose Masdeval, a Spanish botanist in the time of Charles III, and comprised of about 600 miniature to medium sized epiphytic or lithophytic species from Mexico to the southern Andes. Like their close relative the draculas (for example Dracula andreettae), masdevallias have creeping rhizomes and an inflorescence that arises from an annulus, but it’s the structure of the flower that really stands out. The sepals are fused into a tube, of sorts, and the petals stand out in various triangular arrangements. Colors range from white to yellow to brilliant reds and purples. It is hard to pick favorites.
Being mostly from montane cloud forest, Masdevallia is generally considered a cool grower; however, there are species that grow naturally in intermediate and even warm conditions, like Masdevallia rex, M. ayabacana, M. discoidea, and M. bennettii. In my experience, most (if not all) can tolerate temperatures in the 80’s and even 90’s if they are kept in the shade, and they grow well in pots with sphagnum or small bark mix (I favor moss). They like low light, high humidity and watering throughout the year but be careful not to overwater. I grow mine in net or closed pots with sphagnum moss, and I keep them in intermediate (when it’s cooler) to low (when it’s warmer) light.