This wonderful flower belongs to Dracula bella. The first large heavily patterned flower has just opened with more buds to come.
We have a number of Dracula species in the school collection but this is the plant with the largest and most dramatic flowers. The species is native to dense cloud forests in Colombia and Ecuador at altitudes from 1700-2000m. We have seen other draculas growing in Costa Rica where we found plants restricted to wet mossy positions in low light. In common with most draculas, Dracula bella has strongly pendulous flower spikes and so basket culture is important, both to display plants, and to stop flowers becoming trapped in pots.
As you can see this plant suffered from heat stress early in the summer and will drop two leaves soon although there are new ones emerging in the cool of the autumn. We hung the plant in too bright a position and quickly moved it back to a shady spot under another orchid basket where it is easy to keep the plant wet, shaded and cool. When mature the species makes fantastic specimens – see our plant before division below.
The flower is a deceit pollinator and mimics a fungus with its strange lip to attract fungus gnats.
At Writhlington we grow 900 different orchid species and a small number of interesting primary hybrids. Coelogyne x intermedia (above) is a natural hybrid between two of our favourite Coelogynes; Coelogyne cristata and Coelogyne flaccida (below).
We have seen both species growing close together in Sikkim during our five school expeditions to this wonderful part of the Himalayas.
Coelogyne x intermedia has inherited the best of both species with gracefull arching flower spikes (from Coelogyne flaccida) and large crystaline white flowers (frome Coelogyne cristata). The bulbs are more like Coelogyne flaccida while the leaves are the verdant dark green of Coelogyne cristata.
The two species and their hybrid all flower in March and April, from the previous years’ bulbs, and it makes for a real talking point in the greenhouse to see the two parents and offspring in flower together. Coelogyne x intermedia exhibits hybrid vigour and is easy to grow and floriferous. It enjoys the same cool and wet conditions as the parent species seen flowering here near Tinkitam in Sikkim
Another of our regular autumn orchids is this large flowered coelogyne with a magnificent hairy lip adapted for pollination by large bees.
Coelogyne speciosum is native to Malaysia, Borneo, Java and Sumatra where it is reported from 700-2000m altitude. This variety (albicans) has more white on the lip and a light green flower colour than the more usual variety with yellow and brown.
We grow the species in Warm Asia (min 18C) although its range indicates that it could be grown cooler. Each short flower stem produces two or three flowers that bloom successively over several months and on a large plant can give a very impressive display
We keep the species well watered throughout the year. It produces the odd flower at anytime through the year but the main flowering is now.
During last year’s visits to Borneo we saw a number of warm growing Coelogyne species similar to Coelogyne speciosa in large trees such as in the photo below.
The plants are growing in shade on the lower branches of trees close to a limestone cliff and the forest is wet and hot throughout the year.
We always have masdevallia species in flower and this week one of the most intriguing is this newly described species endemic to Ecuador.
This species was first described in 2006 and is a small growing masdevallia with large long lasting flowers for the size of the plant (the leaves in the photos are just 4cm long). It is particularly notable for the drooping tail on the dorsal sepal which is unusual and may be an adaptation to prevent pollination attempts by the ‘wrong pollinator. I presume that this species is humming bird pollinated as other orange masdevallias, and we found in Brazil that the local Sopronitis wittigiana was visited by several humming bird species, but only pollinated by the one species with the right beak shape. If like many orchids, this orchid has a specific pollinator species, the drooping tail could get in the way of the beaks of other humming birds while suiting the specific pollinator.
It is found at around 1500m and so is cool growing but not excessively so. It seems to do well with a minimum of 12C but we have found that it really enjoys shade and heavy watering and we have noticed a real improvement in growth since we have found a shady corner that allows us to keep it really wet in its free draining little basket.
Our Bulbophyllum alkmaarensis plants are bursting into flower again this weekend and this large plant is smothered in flowers and buds/
In the past five years it has grown all around its mount and is really attractive even when not in flower with its tiny bulbs and bright green. long lived, stiff 1cm leaves.
This lovely, small growing, species is native to Papua New Guinea where it grows in wet montane forests from 1500-2500m. We find that the species although small is a relatively fast grower especially if kept well watered and it soon take over its bark mount or escapes from its small pot. When really happy it produces a mass of flowers as we have today.
We grow the species in our Warm Asia section, although it would grow cooler than our minimum of 17C, and spray plants daily.
We are on our way to Saraw