We have featured lots of weird and wonderful orchids this month but today we have a rather more subtle species.
This rather unusual orchid is native to Costa Rica and Panama. It has thin leaves on top of long thin pseudobulbs that climb up the mount on a long rhizome. The single flowers come from the top of mature bulbs and are long lasting. The effect is rather elegant.
The species is found in forests up to 1350m and sand it seems to enjoy a shaded spot in our Cool Americas section.
Costa Rica and Panama have an extraordinary diversity of orchids and we have spent spectacular times amongst this diversity in the Orchid Project’s visits to Central America.
It has been a busy week in the propagation lab with A level students working on their germination tests. Each student has been investigating a different orchid species and identifying optimum germination conditions in vitro. In the photo Gracie is using one of the WIFI microscope cameras to record the germination of her seedlings. All her work is done inside a laminar flow cabinet to maintain microbe free conditions.
This lovely free flowering orchid is native to warm forests in Southern China and Vietnam where it experience a wet summer monsoon and a cooler dryer winter when it flowers.
We find it enjoys warm temperatures in Warm Asia and although we grow it in a basket to show off the lovely pendulous flowers we work hard to keep it well watered in the growing season from March until September. Flowers are produced from the centre of new growths every spring.
We have two clones of this species which are very different in growth form with this clone having longer bulbs and longer flower spikes. The flowers however are very similar.
This must be one of our weirdest orchid species. Bulbophyllum is a small growing Bulbophyllum with a remarkable flower spike consisting of many small black flowers which each produce three thin dangly tassels which are attached to the end of each sepal and sway too and fro in the slightest breeze.
This species is notable as one of our most exciting finds in the wild. On our last expedition to Laos we were trekking to one of the famous waterfalls of the Bolevan Plateau when our attention was taken by a ‘fluffy dangly thing’ just above our heads. It turned out to be two flowering spikes of Bulbophyllum lemniscatoides coming from leafless pseudobulbs. (photos below)
The find was all the more exciting as the species is the cover photo for the book we had been using all trip ‘Orchid Genera of Thailand,Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The habitat of the species was humid evergreen forest near a river at about 1000m (see photo below) and so the plant is best suited to growing in our Warm Asia section although it benefits from a cooler dry winter period in the roof of Cool Americas along with a number of our Asian species. If you are going to southern Laos in the near future I can tell you where to look.
We grow the species high in our Warm Asia section and mounted so that it gets good drainage (the plants in the wild were on bare bark with no moss) and the newest bulb drops its two leaves in December before sending our the thin upright flower spike.
Our next challenge is to pollinate it.
This delicate and graceful species is a national flower of Myanmar and has features in traditional songs and literature as well as in buddhist traditions.
We first came across the species when asked to grow it from seed by a local Buddhist centre where they grew the species in the traditional way on coir matting. We found that the species is easy from seed in-vitro and can even flower in jars.
The species comes from seasonally dry lowland forests and drops its twin leaves in the winter. We find that it needs a really dry winter (we put our plants up on a shelf) or it doesn’t flower and is liable to rot but the particular requirements of the species are worth the effort for these lovely fragrant flowers. During the summer we water heavily to encourage large bulbs for good flowering and the species spens all year in our Warm Asia section.
In Myanmar it is known as Thazin and is popular for bridal adornment but as we have no-one getting married in orchid project this month we will enjoy the flowers and pollinate a few for the next generation of seedlings.
If you are interested in the Orchids of Myanmar do look up the conservation project being developed by our good friend Dino Zelinka and Thant Sin Aye. Their next tour to Myanmar is being organised and more details can be found at their website.