this is the most delicate of Encyclias. It comes from Central America and we have seen it in Belize a few miles inland from Belize city. Encyclias are Laelineae and so related to Cattleyas and Laelias and tend to have roundish pseudobulbs and thick stiff leaves. Encyclia bractescens is something of an exception with thin grass like leaves and small pseudobulbs. The long lasting flowers are large for the size of plant and although it seems slow to multiply up to being a specimen it is a rewarding plant to grow.
In Belize we found it growing as an epiphyte in regrowth forest in one of the villages that form the Community Baboon Sanctuary http://www.belizehowlermonkeys.org/ which is actually a sanctuary set up more that 25 years ago with WWF support that set up skeleton forest in a group of villages in Belize. Skeleton forest is continuous forest shared with villagers who all keep 50 yeard of forest at the edge of their land. Although called a Baboon reserve it is aimed at protecting Black Howler Monkeys which we have met and enjoyed watching (and hearing) in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Belize.
We saw Black Howler Monkeys in the reserve (see below) and lots of Orchids too. If you protect habitat for one species than all the biodiversity benefits.
One of the orchid was Encyclia bractescens growing as an epiphyte on the truck of a small tree in fairly open forest and dappled shade (shown nicely on our photograph). The altitude was around 100m above sea level.
Flowering in Belize.
We grow this species in Warm Americas in a basket to give good drainage though we water well during the summer (wet season in Belize)
This Brazillian pluerothallis produces a dramatic display when its long spike of spidery flower pretty much hide the leaves of the plant in early summer.
We have seen the species flowering in Brazil where we found it growing abundantly of mountain ridges at around 1200m in cloud forest.
This photograph of the species near Macae de Cima shows a plant growing in the trunk of a tree in moist forest with a fair amount of moss on most trees and additional humidity coming from the large amount of bromeliads present in the habitat. The photo shows old spikes as well as new and the habit of flowering for many years from the same leaf axil explains the dramatic flowering display give by mature plants like our one in the school greenhouse.
Cool Americas gives a close match with the native habitat – cool (min 12C) , moist, and shaded. We find the species does very well mounted.
Vote here for your favourite orchid from this week’s species.
The winner of orchid of the week for week 20 was Dendrobium aphyllum. Thanks again for all of those who voted.
This seems to be a week of fragrant orchids and this one is one of our most scented species with a fragrance of sweet play-doh. In fact the scent is rather too much if we need to take the plant to show in a van so it is a good idea to open the windows. In the greenhouse it fills the whole of Warm Americas.
The species is found over a wide range through Central and South America and forms a large plant with 40 cm pseudobulbs topped by 40cm leaves. The flowers are almost always in pairs, back to back but we have had threes on particularly strong growths.
Found from 400 to 1700m the plant is not fussy about temperature and we grow it well in both Warm Americas and Cool Americas keeping it damp all year. Growing the species in different temperatures extends the flowering season as the warmer growing plants flower first during May while the cooler growing plants wait until June.
This free flowering species is native to Mexico and Central America where it grows as an epiphyte of lithophyte in semi-deciduous forest. As its name suggests it has a sweet scent along with spicy overtones. It uses the scent to attract euglossine bees (perfume gathering bees) and in common with many plants adopting this strategy has fairly short lived flowers (a couple of weeks).
The native habitat experiences a marked dry season and so the species drops all its leaves in November and remains leafless until April or May. We reduce watering to almost none while there are no leaves but in the summer once growth is underway we water heavily to support the rapidly growing lush leaves.
It suits our temperatures in Warm Americas with a winter minimum of 15C