Bratonia (Miltassia) Shelob ‘Tolkien’

Bratonia Shelob orchid 1

The Bratonia Shelob is a sympodial epiphyte orchid hybrid. It was registered in 1998 by J.W.McCully and is a cross between Bratonia Olmec and Brassia Edvah Loo. This orchid is special because of its typical spidery Brassia flowers, that have an unusual purple color. As a side note, it’s not nearly as frightening as the giant spider Shelob from Lord of the Rings, although the inspiration for its name derived from it. Both Miltassia and Bratonia names are used, but the correct reclassification is now Bratonia.


Blooms have a spidery shape, with long thin petals and an elongated broader lip. The petals are a dark brown and purple color, sometimes displayed as blotches of brown on an orange, light brown canvas. The lip is wider and has a vivid purple or pink color, with a few brown spots surrounded by a yellow rim.

The effect of the flowers is spectacular, this being the strong point of this orchid. It is one of the few non yellow and brown, Brassia shaped flowers of the orchid world.

Bratonia Shelob orchid 2

The flowers are mildly fragrant, smelling spicy and peppery. The fragrance can be sensed in the early hours of the morning throughout the day until the afternoon. At night this orchid has no more fragrance.

This orchid can bloom multiple times in one year. Usually, with every maturing pseudobulb a flower spike can be produced. In some cases the orchid can produce 2 flower spikes emerging from each side of the pseudobulb. The spike usually emerges from between the pseudobulb and the first lateral leaf.

Bratonia Shelob orchid 5

The flowers usually last between 4 to 6 weeks, depending on environment. After the blooms fall, usually the orchid starts to produce new pseudobulbs. The spikes can be cut near the base after the blooms drop, as they will not rebloom, or produce plantlets.


The pseudobulbs are about 10 cm in height and about 4 cm in width, with an oval shape. The normal color for this orchid is light green.  The leaves are long and slender, measuring about 20-30 cm in length and about 4 cm in width. The leaves are prone to obtain accordion shape growth if the orchid is kept too dry and in too low humidity.

Bratonia Shelob orchid 4

The roots are thin and healthy roots are white,  but as they age, they can turn green when wet. When in active growth they have bright green tips. New growths usually appear from between the last exterior leaves and take between 8 to 10 months to fully mature.

Propagation of this orchid can be done through division, each division should have at least 3 fully grown pseudobulbs for a fast growth further on.

Soft spots: pleated leaves if kept too dry, pleated flower spikes if the leaves don’t develop normally

Bratonia Shelob orchid 3

Overall the Bratonia Shelob ‘Tolkien’ is an easy to medium difficult orchid to grow. With basic orchid knowledge and basic Brassia care, it can be grown successfully in a home.

Bratonia Shelob ‘Tolkien’ Basic care:

Light: Intermediate to bright

Temperature: Intermediate

Humidity: Tolerant to low humidity, over 40% ideal

Water: As the media approaches dryness

Growth cycle: not deciduous, does not require a winter rest, does not regularly shed leaves, can bloom all year round

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