Cymbidium tracyanum – 365 days of orchids – day 1067


Another Cymbidium today and this one is a much larger plant than yesterday’s Cymbidium cochleare.

Cymbidium tracyanum is a large flowered and fragrant cymbidium which every autumn sends up spikes up to 90cm long with around fifteen flowers on a spike. The species is native to Southern China, Thailand and Myanmar where it grows in wet forests from 1200-1900m as both an epiphyte on mossy trunks and branches or on mossy rocks.

To replicate the plants natural habitat we grow plants in our temperate section (minimun 6C) and keep plants very well watered when in active growth (spring and summer) and damp at other times. Plants would be very happy growing outside from mid May through to September but remember to keep them wet to replicate their monsoon home.

As the first of the large flowered Cymbidiums to flower every autumn and it is often still in flower at Christmas, so do come and enjoy the species on December 14th. It forms great specimen plants with multiple spikes. We find the best time to divide plants that need it (particularly if they are crowded with old pseudobulbs in the centre of the plant) is in early spring just after flowering.

The scent is very fresh and we think it is mostly citrus. We have however known hybrids of Cym. tracyanum that are more reminiscent of cat urine! – better to stick to the species.

This is the first species we grew from seed back in the early 1990s and it is still a joy to see our own seedlings flowering in the greenhouse.



Cymbidium cochleare – 365 days of orchids – day 1066

The Himalayan autumn flowering Cymbidiums are all coming to flower this week. The first we will feature is Cymbidium cochleare and the plant shown has a record (for us) of four flower spikes.


Cymbidium cochleare is a species we have seen in Sikkim and in the wild or cultivation it is instantly recognisable from its very thin pendulous flower spikes with glossy pendulous flowers that smell of jasmine.

The plant is a delicate cymbidium with fine dark green leaves and this species really needs to be in a basket to allow for the flower habit.

The species is found across the eastern Himalayas from Sikkim to Thailand and inhabits cool wet monsoon forests. We water the plant well to avoid drying in the summer especially as it is in a basket and give a winter minimum of 7C in our temperate section.


Aerangis brachycarpa – 365 days of orchids – day 1065


I mentioned last Thursday that we have lots of Aerangis in flower at the moment and here is one of them. This stunning species is native to East Africa from Ethiopia through Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and south to Zambia and Angola. It is found in highland forests (1500-2300m) in deep shade on tree trunks.

The plants are quite stout for Aerangis and this plant that we de-flasked in 2005 has taken fourteen years to reach its current size but now flowers regularly with multiple long elegant spikes.

We find that Aerangis species are particularly easy from seed especially the potentially tricky de-flasking stage. Fortunately, lots of the species are much quicker flowering from flask than Aerangis brachycarpa and we will feature one of them (Aerangis biloba) later in the week.

 Aerangis seedling in our lab.


Cattleya cernua – 365 days of orchids – day 1064

We are always keen to link our orchids to their pollinators and so the habitats they come from. This species is a classic humming bird pollinated flower from Brazil with its scarlet flowers and tubular lip.

This is a Brazilian miniature species, with 4cm long leaves and 3cm bulbs, until recently known as Sophronitis cernua. It is native to South Eastern Brazil where it is found as an epiphyte in warm woodland close to the beach or further inland. We find that it does best when mounted on cork and completely free of moss so that it dries out completely between waterings. We grow plants in Warm Americas (min 15C) in good light where we spray it daily.

The plants shown here were split three years ago and they have produced extensive root systems well suited to a dry habitat. The flowers are quite small at 25mm across but a mature plant is covered in flowers and really gives a good display.


Masdevallia tonduzii – 365 days of orchids – day 1063

 This year

 Last year

Masdevallia tonduzii is a small growing Masdevallia with very large flowers . The plant shown here is in a 3cm pot and so the leaves are 5cm long and the flowers 12cm across including the tails. The species is native to Costa Rica and Panama where it grows in forests from 400-1400m altitude making this a bit warmer growing than most of our cloud forest Masdevallia species.

The inside of the flower is hairy adding further to the the brilliance of this little species .

The species is named after Adolphe Tonduz a Swiss naturalist who was invited to Costa Rica as part of a drive for education and science in the country in the 1880s. He contributed greatly to knowledge of the amazing plant diversity of Costa Rica between 1889 and 1920 but sadly died an alcoholic aged 59. If you would like to know more about his life and work there is a great article about him.

In horticulture one is always learning and we grew this species for many years in our Cool Americas section with the rest of the Masdevallias. We noticed that that the plant failed to increase in size and noting the low altitude it can be found at in the wild tried growing it warmer. It now spends all year in our Warm Americas section and has responded by growing more leaves than ever before and a record six flowers (the previous best was two.

This little orchid will also remind us of the importance of moderation with mulled wine at Orchid Christmas. (14th December 10am-4pm if you had forgotten)