Pleurothallis sclerophyla – 365 days of orchids – day 874

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.



Polystachya galeata – 365 days of orchids – day 873

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.


Dendrobium victoria-regina – 365 days of orchids – day 872

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.


Gomesa crispa – 365 days of orchids – day 871

This rewarding species comes from Brazil and we found it growing abundantly in the forests around Macae de Cima in our expeditions in 2000 and 2005. Gomesa crispa is a pioneer species that is one of the first epiphytes to establish in regrowth forest as soon as humidity is high enough for moss to grow at the base of the trunks of young trees, the plant will establish in this moss as a very low level epiphyte just 10cm off the ground. It also grows in more mature forest and in elfin forest on mountain ridges.

The flowers are a yellow/green colour but very attractively crisped (hence the name) and a healthy plant produces a very long spikes and usually two spikes from each bulb (see photo)

We have grown this species successfully in both Cool Americas and Warm Americas but we find it does best grown in Cool Americas which is similar to its natural habitat although it enjoys growing in a small basket where it is a little dryer than some of the surrounding plants. The very extensive root system also reflects an ability to cope with dryer conditions.

The photo here from our 2005 trip to Brazil shows the natural habitat for the species in relatively open regrowth forest with young trees.


Vanda testacea – 365 days of orchids – day 870

This small growing and small flowered Vanda species is a spectacular member of the genus and the star of the greenhouse this week.

Vanda testacea is native to The Himalayas from Nepal to Mayanmar and also from Sri Lanka where it is found from 700 to 2000m. The range implies it can take quite cool temperatures but we find it enjoys life with the other Vandas in Warm Asia.

This plant is now 25cm tall and 30cm wide. the long lasting yellow and pink flowers are held well clear of the leaves and the species clearly likes to produce multiple spikes. The flowers are probably butterfly pollinated with a small curved spur at the base of the lip.