Cattleya purpurata is the national flower of Brazil and a species prized for its diverse colour forms. The first clone to flower with us each year is the variety ‘carnea’ (photographed today) named for the meat red of its lip. Like many selectred forms this is a semi-alba with a coloured lip and the other petals and sepal pure white. The more common colour is pink with a darker lip (see photo below, although this clone has not yet shown any buds this year and will probably flower in July)
Cattleya purpurata is found as an epiphyte in open forest up to around 1000m where it experiences a warm wet summer and a cool dryer winter. With us it reliably flowers in between May and July and we keep the large plants hanging high in Warm America with a minimum temperature of 15C. High in the greenhouse plants get good light and the baskets of large bark allows lots of air spaces for the thick and abundant roots.
We have also found this a great species to raise from seed as the seedlings are really vigorous and plants usually reach flowering size four years from de-flasking.
Last Weekend Jess was working at The Eden Project as part of their Costa Rica Festival. Jess gave four talks about costa rican orchids using images from our extensive collection of species from this amazing country.
Topics included diversity (Costs Rica has the world’s highest Orchid Diversity Index), pollinators and habitats. The talks were a great success and also helped firm up some of our future plans for new projects with our Eden partners.
This wonderful Brazilian species produces masses of 2cm wide creamy yellow flowers. If you look closely at the flowers you see that they have three long thin sepals, all with slightly hairy edges, two tiny petals with red tips and a tiny yellow lip.
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.
One of the more subtle species flowering each summer in the Orchid House is this Polystachya galeata.
Like most polystachyas this species is African and is found in Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zaire and Angola. The broad distribution results in a wide range of colour forms. The species is native to hot lowland evergreen forests from 400-1000m altitude and so we grow plants in our Warm Asia section (we don’t have a Warm Africa section) in shade with a minimum of 17C.
This orchid has the typical features of a polystachya flower; it is non-resupinate (up-side-down), has large lateral sepals that form a hood, and has flowers that open in succession on a flower spike produced from the base of the single leaf that grows on a cylindrical pseudobulb.
The flowers are really worth a close look from underneath as this reveals the beautiful combinations of cream, green and red that are hidden from above.
Summer has definitely arrived in the greenhouse with the flowers opening on this gorgeous Dendrobium species.
This wonderful blue flowered Dendrobium species is a cool growing epiphyte, native to the Philippines where it grows on moss covered trees in consistent moisture all year round and good air movement. It is a free flowering species, but the peak of its flowering seems to be in June when it produces the first flush. The flowers are held normally in clusters of 3-4 but we have known our plants to produce up to 7 on its very short spikes. The flowers of this species are famous for being blue but the quality of the blue does vary. We have two different plants of very different flower colour. The smaller of our plants produces flowers of quite a dark blue. The larger of our two plants is the most vigorous and floriferous clone we have and it will reach its peak in about 3 weeks (here it is last year)
The plant grows in the side of a moss covered basket where it is kept wet all year and hangs in Cool Asia (min 10C). This potting method was developed by Jacob and certainly seems the way to grow this orchid to perfection.
We have several seed pods on the plant which are very close to maturity and so hope to have lots of seedlings from this wonderful species in the future.