Prosthechea kautskyi – 365 days of orchids – day 1672

This month I keep finding new prosthechea species to feature. Prothechea kautskyi is less flombouyant than many of the other prosthecheas flowering at the moment but is a charming little species. Unusually this species has more colour on the reverse of the flowers than on the front.

Prosthechea kautskyi is native to Brazil where it grows in the coastal forests of the Mata Atlantica. We have seen similar species in Brazil clothing the thick lower branches of trees and this species has a spreading habit with its little sprays of non-resupinate (upside down) flowers clear of the leaves for passing pollinators which would be butterflies.

We have tried the species in several sections of the greenhouse as we have found very little information about it and find that it prefers to grow cool and shaded with the free draining conditions provided by a basket. We are hoping that it will develop into a floriferous, spreading specimen.


Odontoglossum rhynchanthum – 365 days of orchids – day 1671

Another cool growing species that is enjoying the break in the weather is this wonderful Odontoglossum species with long pendulous spikes of stunning flowers.

Odontoglossum rhynchanthum is endemic to Colombian cloud forest above 2000m. Authorities describe the species as producing 30cm spikes with up to seven flowers but our clone produces graceful arching spikes to 70cm with up to twelve flowers. Leading bulbs produce a number of spikes and give a fantastic display of the large and colourful flowers.

We have divided our older plants and now have several young plants in baskets like the one shown. We find that baskets are ideal for odontoglossum species as long as they can be kept damp with watering most days.

We grow our plants cool (minimum 12C) and damp all year.


Stelis thermophyla – 365 days of orchids – day 1670

The cooler weather this weekend is being appreciated by our species native to the cool cloud forests of the Americas and this stelis species is looking perfect.

This stunning stelis is a small growing floriferous species from Brazil. Every summer plants are smothered in delicate pinky brown flowers in charming upright spikes.

Stelis thermophila is native to coastal forests in Brazil where it grows in warm wet forests at lower altitudes than most of our Stelis species that are cool cloud forest specialists (hence the name thermophyla meaning warm growing). Despite this we find the species is very happy in our Cool America section where we grow it mounted and in pots alongside similar species, but confident that it will not mind warm days in the greenhouse. We have had the species since the 1990s and find it trouble free and reliable.

In our expeditions to Brazil we have been captivated by the stelis species we have seen flowering in the wild. They are a wonderful example of small plants with tiny flowers putting on a great display and Stelis have become a key component of the Writhlington collection over time.


Encyclia polardiana – 365 days of orchids – day 1669

To celebrate the start of the school holidays we have Encyclia polardiana from Mexico

The graceful branched spikes with long lasting flowers make Encyclia polardiana one of our favourite summer orchids.

This is a strong growing species, endemic to Mexico, found in open forests between 1000m and 1400m altitude. The species description gives the spike length as 30-60cm but our plant usually manages at least 1m and this year the two branched spikes are over 1m tall with a total of 200 flowers, each 3cm across.

The plant grows in a basket and seems to thrive in good light with heavy watering when in growth from now until November.

We are delighted to have germinated seed of this species from last year’s seed pods.


Polystachya vulcanica – 365 days of orchids – day 1668

This floriferous little orchid species is native to Rwanda and reminds us of our wonderful Rwandan partners. We are delighted that the Amazon Longitude Prize money (see Mendip students win runners up prize in National competition) will help in our work with our school partners in FAWE School, Kigali (Photo below from our last expedition)

Polystachya is a common genus amongst African orchids and we have seen species in South African woodland as well as  Rwanda. As its name suggests, Polystachya vulcanica comes from the volcanic mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and Zaire (it doesn’t come from Vulcan!)

Polystachya vulcanica is native to high altitude mossy forest similar to that we found on the upper slopes of Mount Bigugu in Rwanda (more information here and orchids here). This is the highest point in Nyungwe national park at 3000m and the orchid is found from 1600-3000m. This habitat is very similar to South American cloud forests and so we grow the species in Cool Americas where we keep it moist and shaded all year.

Like most Polystachyas the species holds its flowers upside down (non-resupinate) and this flower is photographed from below to show the lovely colour combination. Flower spikes are produced in profusion and each produces sequential individual flowers over a period of months during the summer. Each flower stems produce several flowers over the summer months. The plant flowering today is a recent division and we will have plants for sale in the near future.