Cattleya is a genus of 42 species of orchids from Costa Rica to tropical South America. The genus was named in 1824 by John Lindley after William Cattley, who received and successfully cultivated specimens of Cattleya labiata that were used as packing material in a shipment of other orchids.
They are widely known for their large, showy flowers, and were used extensively in hybridization for the cut-flower trade until quite recently. This genus and the numerous hybrids come close, through their beauty, to the idealized picture we have of the orchids. The flowers of the hybrids can vary in size from 5 cm to 15 cm or more. They occur in all colors except true blue and black.
The typical flower has three rather narrow petals : two are fringed, and the third is the conspicuous lip with a fringed margin and various markings and specks. At the base, the fringed margins are folded into a tube. Each flower stalk originates from a pseudobulb. The number of flowers varies; it can be just one or two, or sometimes up to ten.