Stelis thermophyla – 365 days of orchids – day 1303

We have several show stoppers in the greenhouse this week – what a shame there aren’t any shows. The World Orchid Congress in Taiwan has been rescheduled for the end of April 2021 but it is much to early for us to consider what our involvement will be.

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.


Stanhopea graveolens – 365 days of orchids – day 1302

Students gave a zoom tour of the greenhouses today for our Sarawak orchid Society and this Stanhopea species was one of the highpoint with its wonderfully fragrant large flowers. Like all our Stanhopea species the flowers are produced on dramatic pendulous spikes that keep the flowers well clear of the leaves and bulbs. The flowers last for a few days but while they are out they are magnificent and once they reach a good size they produce several spikes that give flowers over several weeks.

Stanhopes graveolens is a Central American species. We have seen related species in Costa Rica growing in wet evergreen forest around 1000m. This gives something of a challenge in cultivation as the plants must be in baskets so that the downward growing flower spikes emerge safely but baskets easily dry out especially when hung up high in the roof. Our solution is to hand the plants relatively low down in the greenhouse – at around bench hight – so that they are well watered and then hang them up higher when they flower so that the flowers are at nose height.

The wonderful scents are to attract euglossine bees (as do Gongoras). The males collect the perfume oils from the flowers and then use them in their display to attract females.

We find that stanhopeas are straight forward to grow form seed in our lab, and we will be adding our first Stanhopea species to the online shop tomorrow, including mature seedlings and seedlings in-vitro, for those who want to give these spectacular summer flowering orchids a try.


Successful meeting with Sarawak partners

Thanks to the wonders of technology we are able to stay in close contact with our partners in Sarawak. Orchid project students gave a tour of the greenhouses and lab, and we we able to spend lots of time discussing progress in the MRSM propagation lab in Kuching. A massive thank you to SARORSO (Sarawak Orchid Society) members and UK students for a really productive morning I am sure that this will be the first of many.


Oncidium flexuosum (Gomesa flexuosa)- 365 days of orchids – day 1301

Some orchids pack an amazing display of flowers and this Brazillian oncidium fills its corner of the greenhouse with clouds of yellow flowers from March right through until the late autumn. In a good year we get 12 months of flowers!


This Brazillian species has recently been transferred from Oncidium to Gomesa along with many of the Brazillian oncidiums. It is native the the Mata Atlantica forests running along the Atlantic Coast of Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. It is found from as an epiphyte from coastal marshes up to 1200m and adapted to the seasonal dry period by growing a mass of roots. We grow the species mounted as it has something of a climbing habit with each pseudobulb growing above the previous one. It regularly attaches itself to walls, supports, shading, other plants pots etc but we always forgive its naughty behaviour and admire the flowers.

It is a reliable tough species and delivers real impact each summer with masses of small yellow flowers on branched flower spikes as shown in the photographs. We have had this species in our collection since the start and it is one we would never be without. It grows warm or cool. The species has been used extensively in breeding hybrid Oncidiums, and passes on its free flowering habit.

We have seen similar species in Brazil where the mass of yellow oncidium flowers in the canopy can be seen hundreds of metres away, across a valley.


Cattleya forbesii- 365 days of orchids – day 1300

For our 1300th orchid of the day we have a lovely smaller flowered Cattleya species.

Cattleya forbesii is a bi-foliate (two leaved) Cattleya that comes from Brazil. It is found as a lithophyte or epiphyte in coastal forest in the Mata Atlantica – a habitat that has largely disappeared in the past 200 years. It therefore enjoys being warm and bright but given plenty of water during the summer growing season. Our plants hang in baskets in our Warm Americas section.

The flowers are quite variable in shades of green, yellow and brown and are around 7cm across but are very attractive and well grown plants can produce six flowers per spike, and this year we have five on our spike.