To follow yesterday’s Myrmecophylla tibicins we have another monster orchid today with flower spikes over 1m long with around 150 flowers each 4cm across and it makes a terrific sight.
Grammatophyllum scriptum is a large growing species with a wide natural range including Borneo, the Lesser Sunda Islands, the Moluccas, The Philippines, Sulawesi, the Solomon Islands, the Bismark Archipelago, Papua and New Guinea, Fiji and Santa Cruz Islands. The species is restricted to areas near the coast up to 100m – a habitat we have explored in Sarawak – and so enjoys a hot climate and bright light.
We do our best to replicate the natural habitat by growing plants high in Warm Asia (Min 17C) but the species would enjoy higher temperatures and we keep plants drying in the winter to avoid damage on cooler nights. Something we enjoy showing new members of greenhouse club is the difference in temperature between floor level and high in the roof. What ever the weather try holding you hand just above floor level and then holding it as high as you can – we find at least 5 degrees difference in the greenhouse – often more.
We will start the week with one of our favourite monster orchids. Myrmecophylla tibicinis reminds us of our school expeditions to Guatemala and Belize and we were delighted this year that our largest plant was filmed by the BBC for Green Planet. The plant above is a smaller clone but still a big orchid with spikes over 1m long and large beautiful flowers. Note the ripening seed pods towards the base of the spike.
Another clone (below) has 2 to 3m spikes with fewer heavier flowers. They are both gorgeous.
We have seen this species growing abundantly in lowland forest in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. In Belize it is known as the horn orchid because of the shape of the large pseudobulbs.
The plant shown here is growing on the edge of the Belize River near Belize City. In the wild the species makes large specimens exposed to bright sun in semi-deciduous forest where they share upper branches with epiphytic cacti.
The name ‘myrmecophila’ refers to the close relationship the species has with large ants that make their homes in the older pseudobulbs and defend the plant when it comes under threat.
The Maya Biosphere shared by Guatemala, Belize and Mexico this lowland dryish forest was once the centre of the Mayan Civilization. The photograph here is taken from the top of a pyramid in Yaxha.
In Yaxha we worked with the Private National Reserves of Guatemala to produce a field guide to the orchids of a community reserve and gathered a fallen Myrmecophyla tibicinis to relocate in a tree and rather painfully forgot about the ant thing – ouch!
We grow the species in baskets and mounted in Warm Americas where they enjoy good light and plenty of water and feed when in growth.
We happily describe Maxillaria preastans as our moist reliable maxillaria. Every summer the long lasting flowers add interest to greenhouse as well as being a regular species at previous summer shows such as Hampton Court Flower Show, Malvern International Orchid Show and the Bristol University Bee and Pollination event. What ever the show, people are fascinated by the very black lip on this dramatic orchid.
Maxillaria preastans is native to Mexico and Central America is found between 1500 and 2000m altitude in humid evergreen forest. We find that it grows well both cool in Cool Americas (min 12C) and warm in Warm Americas (min 15C) as long as it is kept well watered throughout the year.
Single flowers are produced from the base of bulbs in summer and are large and showy with a distinctive black lip. Several flowers are produced from each bulb over a period of a few months making this a straight forward and rewarding species to grow. The flowers are long lasting and ensure a point of interest in the summer greenhouse.
We have noticed that wasps find our flowers particularly attractive and in the autumn when wasps become more common in the greenhouse several flowers get pollinated.
This is normally a time of year when we would be doing lots of school trips to see native British Orchids such as those described so well by Jacob in his posts on Orchid Hunting in Kent. Unfortunately trips are still rather limited by Covid restrictions and so we are delighted to see that common spotted orchids are flowering again in our school car park. These lovely plants here were found by Kate and Lily between the teachers cars. Let’s hope that we will soon be able to travel again so that Kate and Lily can look for orchids in forests of Rwanda and Sarawak, although there are orchids in car parks there too.
Another of our summer orchid highlights is this wonderful Brazilian species. Brassavola tuberculata always flowers for the Malvern International Orchid Show that we have really missed this month.
In 2018 it won Best Trade Sopecies at the show, an RHS Cultural award, and won RHS Orchid of the Year 2018.
This terete leaved relative of Cattleya is native to Brazil where it grows in warm open forest in good light. It is relatively slow growing and we find it does best mounted where its long lived roots can grip tightly to the bark. We find it dislikes pots or baskets presumably because the roots cannot tolerate prolonged wet periods. Saying this we find that mounted it enjoys being watered daily and when we have with held watering at flowering time the flowers have not opened fully – so mounted but well watered seems to be its preference in our greenhouse.
The species is a classic moth pollinated orchid with flowers that are fragrant at night and the right pale colours to stand out in the dark forest.