Masdevallia tonduzii – 365 days of orchids – day 1779

This is one of our favourite Masdevallias and a treat to have it in flower for Orchid Christmas tomorrow evening (4pm-7pm all welcome)

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, and hairy inside. The species is native to Costa Rica and Panama where it grows in forests from 400-1400m altitude making this warmer growing than most of our cloud forest Masdevallia species. As a result this is one of the few Masdevallia species that we grow in our Warm Americas section (min 15C), rather than in Cool Americas (min 12C) with most of our masadevallias. This suits Masdevallia tonduzii’s preference for higher temperatures and a brighter environment with dryer air, although we water the species very heavily, as witnessed by the thick layer of mass that has grown on the compost surface. The plant is slowly getting bigger in its preferred environment and has three flowers and another five buds. Hopefully it will soon be in need of splitting so that we can share this wonderful species around.

As I have said before, 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.

This little orchid will also remind us of the importance of not spending too much on alcohol – so why not spend your money on orchids at Orchid Christmas? – the healthy way to happiness 🙂

If anyone is visiting the school greenhouse for the first time on Friday evening, the school postcode is BA3 3NQ – just follow the signs to the Orchid Project when you arrive.


Stelis genychila – 365 days of orchids – day 1778

Visitors to Orchid Christmas will be able to enjoy a very diverse greenhouse include several of our Stelis species. Stelis genychila is one of the highlights of our autumn greenhouse with its really unusual unusual large dark flowers.

Stelis is a genus closely related to Masdevallias and Pleurothallis. They are not widely grown in collections but the orchid project has been a big fan since exploring the forests of Brazil and Costa Rica where students came across many of these small flowered but very attractive species.

Stelis genychila like most Stelis species has flattish flowers with three larger sepals, forming a triangle, and much smaller petals and lip in the centre. These parts are easier to spot in Stelis genychila than many stelis species as the flowers are rather large and beautifully coloured.

The plant is medium sized for a stelis with leaves about 20cm long and the 30cm flower spikes have two opposite rows of 10-20 flowers. Leaves flower repeatedly over many years and so mature plants produce many spikes. We find that this species is a regular autumn flowerer and have noticed that the flowers open with a grey tone and slowly darken as they mature.

All of our Stelis species grow in our Cool Amaricas section (min 12C) where they are grown wet (we water every day) all year in pots or baskets.


Phalaenopsis equestris – 365 days of orchids – day 1777

It is hard to know when to feature Phalaenopsis equestris on 365 days of orchids as it is always in flower. We have two clones the peloric form with two petals similar to the lip and the standard form – both are lovely.


Phalaenopsis equestris is native to the Philippines and Southern Taiwan – which is very appropriate over World Orchid Congress Weekend in Taiwan – where it is reported growing as an epiphyte in lowland forest near streams. It is a compact plant, 15cm across, that produces lots of flower

The small flowers are produced on arching spikes that continue to grow for many months with successive flowers each lasting about a month.

Do come and see the species on Friday at Orchid Christmas – 4pm-7pm.


Aerangis verdickii – 365 days of orchids – day 1776

Another orchid to greet us on out return from Bristol University Botanic Garden was our Aerangis verdickii. Aerangis verdickii is one of our favourite African orchid species and as more African countries are added to the Travel red list we are again concerned that returning to Rwanda to work with our wonderful partners at FAWE School may be a little while off.

Aerangis verdickii is found right across central and east Africa where it grows in woodland and copes with seasonal dry periods by storing water in its thick roots which form an extensive root system over time. It has grey green, waxy leaves also evolved to reduce water loss. In common with other Aerangis species, Aerangis verdickii is moth pollinated and has a long spur with nectar just in the tip. In verdickii the spurs are 16cm long and gently curved.

We have seen the species in Rwanda showing how it copes with a dry climate (see photo below) on a tree in the capital Kigali.

We have seedlings of this species in out laboratory and fresh seed pods on the plant for sharing with our partners in Rwanda for their school experiments. We are really hoping that we will be together again next year.

We grow the species in Warm Asia hanging in the roof where it receives good light, high temperatures and dries quickly after watering.