Stelis microchila – 365 days of orchids – day 1822

We have a tiny miniature for you today with leaves 2cm long and flowers about 2mm across.

Stelis microchila is one of the smallest of our Stelis species and is native to shaded damp forests from Central America down to Ecuador. Found from 900-1500m the habitat is not as cool as that of other Stelis species we grow making this little jewel more warmth tolerant than most.

With any tiny miniature like this we find that mounting plants works best as it reduces the chances of plants becoming out competed by moss of getting lost amongst our chunky bark compost.


Laelia anceps ‘semi-alba’ – 365 days of orchids – day 1821

We have been enjoying the flowers of Laelia anceps in the greenhouse since the end of November and the latest clone to open its flowers is this unusual semi-alba form. Semi-alba flowers have none of the usual pink/purple pigment apart from on the lip. It bis really interesting to compare this flower with a more usual clone (below) to see the pigment that has or hasn’t come through.

As I have said before the flowers of Laelia anceps are really variable in shape and colour and the three photos below show other clones in flower in the greenhouse. The first is a more normal pink clone, the second is the very large flowered and large growing Laelia anceps ‘veitchiana’ and the third is an alba variety that opens greenish and then becomes pure white with a yellow centre to the lip.

The first is a more normal pink clone

The second is the very large flowered and large growing Laelia anceps ‘veitchiana’ Not quite a semi-alba as the petals have a light pink hue

The third is an alba variety that opens greenish and then becomes pure white with a yellow centre to the lip.

Laelia anceps is native to Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras where it grows in pine oak forest and coffee plantations from 500-1500m altitude. The wide distribution of the species and its relatively harsh habitat help to explain the ease with which the plant grows in cultivation and its tolerance of both high temperatures in the summer and cool temperatures in the winter. The wide distribution also gives rise to the wide variety of forms.



Epidendrum centropetalum – 365 days of orchids – day 1820


Many of our orchids are old friends and ee have had this lovely small growing species in our collection for 28 years. Each year it delivers these lovely clusters of pink flowers that last from January through to early April.

We feel that this is an orchid no one should be without. It is a strong growing little plant that flowers at the ends of short canes each spring and over time it becomes a beautiful mass of roots and stems. The species also flowers quickly from seed and the plants below is just eighteen months out flask and showing its first flowers and lots of buds.

The species is native to Central America where it grows from 1200-1500m in coolish evergreen or semi evergreen forest. We find that it is not fussy about temperature – it grows well in Cool Asia, Cool Americas, Warm Americas and Warm Asia but it does enjoy air to its roots (mounted or in very open bark compost) and plenty of water.

We have done more label changing with this plant that most. In 1993 our plant arrived as Epidendrum centropetalum but it changed to Oerstedella centropetala soon afterwards as Epidendrum was split. A further change to Oerstedella centradenia followed, but from recent molecular studies it has returned to Epidendrum, and is once again Epidendrum centropetala. The plants don’t seem to mind what we call them.


Prosthechea aemula – 365 days of orchids – day 1819

The students of orchid project had a lovely time yesterday lunchtime, sticking their noses into the very fragrant flowers of Prosthechea aemula.

Prosthechea aemula is a vigorous grower with 15cm pseudobulbs and 25cm long dark green leaves produced each summer and long lasting sprays of up to nine flowers from each pseudobulb in early spring. Plants soon form specimens with our largest plant (shown above) having twelve flower spikes this January.

This species is native to warm, wet forests over a wide range through Central and South America and we find it thrives in our Warm Americas section (min 15C) especially in baskets where plants can have heavy watering but excellent drainage.

It is wonderful to have lots of students in school to enjoy the smell after last January’s lockdown that meant the flowers odour of vanilla Play-doh was unappreciated.


Cattleya cinnabarina – 365 days of orchids – day 1818


Today we have another orchid with copper coloured (or should I say orange) flowers.

Cattleya cinnabarina, which until recently was listed as Laelia cinnabarina, is a lithophyte from Brazil and one we have seen growing on steep granite slopes near Novo Friburgo in Rio State (below).

The first photo shows the Cattleya with the last, rather tatty, flower on its spike and seed pods forming. The second photo shows the habitat of bare granite with scrubby grass, Villosia shrub and members of the school trip in 2006.

As we don’t have and scrubby granite slopes to hand in the greenhouse we grow Cattleya cinnabarina mounted on a large piece of cork and grow it high in Cool Americas in bright light above our Pleurothallis and Masdevallia species. It seems to enjoy these conditions and reliably flowers at this time of year. The natural habitat is notably dry in the winter and we replicate this with heavy watering in the summer and infrequent sprays (avoiding flowers and buds) in the winter.

We keep a close eye out for slugs as they seem to appreciate the plant as much as we do.