Maxillaria sophronitis- 365 days of orchids – day 1087

With our Christmas Orchid Festival just days away (14th Dec 10am-4pm) it is time to spot our christmassy orchids. We are all familiar with Robins, and Holly berries but for non-temperate climates what about Hummingbirds and Maxillaria sophronitis?

Maxillaria sophronitis is as bright as any Holly berry and this is to attract its humming bird pollinator in the wet rainforests of Colombia and Venezuela. It is found from 750m to 1500m altitude and so we grow it in both our Warm Americas and our Cool America sections. It seems not to be fussy on temperatures.

We have two very distinct clones of this species. A small growing clone with 4cm leaves and 1cm flowers and this larger clone that is flowering now with 6cm leaves and flowers approximately double the size. In other respects the two clones are very similar. We recently divided a large plant and have approximately 200 plants with many in flower or in bud.

The species’ adaptation for humming bird pollination is interesting. As well as the usual red/yellow flowers to attract a humming bird it has developed a growth habit where it forms a ball but always presents its flowers on the outside of the ball to give easy access for hovering birds.

We find plants enjoy lots of water and good light to flower well.

Here is one of our favourite humming bird photos.

In 2000 on our first visit to Brazil students took this lovely photograph of a humming bird visiting Cattleya wittigiana. Students recorded six species visiting the flowers but only one species of hummingbirds removing pollen.


Adononcos parviflora- 365 days of orchids – day 1086

We are delighted to have lots of our miniature species flowering this week in time for the Christmas orchid festival next Saturday. One of our most reliable miniatures is this tiny vandaceous species from South East Asia and Malaysia so is another of our Sarawak Orchid Species.

The species grows in low montane and hill forest from 300-1300m and so it is very at home in our Warm Asia section. We grow this species on a small piece of cork bark as you can see in the photo. This shows the plant off in a natural way and stops it getting smothered by moss. We spray it with water once a day.

The flower is tiny but very attractive as long as you have good eye sight or a macro lens. We guess it must be pollinated by a gnat or a tiny ant as it is close to the stem. Flowers are produced throughout the year and are always a point of interest. We are pleased that the plants here has started to produce side shoots and so is slowly heading towards becoming a specimen.


Cleisostoma subulatum – 365 days of orchids – day 1085


Todays orchid brings back lovely memories of our recent visit to Sarawak where we saw this species growing in lowland forest near the coast at Bako National Park(below)

The forest here was quite open but Cleisostoma subulatum was growing low down on tree trunks and lower branches in shade. Cleisostoma is a lovely genus and plants have very diverse leaves but very similar flowers. The flowers all have their spurs protruding from their buds well before they open.

Cleisostoma subulatum is a medium sized plant that can grow really large over time, as some of the plants at Bako had, with long pendulous spikes of small flowers that open successively. The species is found from Sikkim in the Himalayas through South east Asia to Malaysia and the Philippines where it grows as an epiphyte in lowland forest up to 500m altutide.

The team arriving at Bako (below) with the forest home of Cleisostoma subulatum at the top of the beach.



Nose flute Orchidstra at Christmas Orchid Festival

We think that Writhlington and Mendip are the only schools in the uk to have a nose flute orchestra (or is that orchidstra!)

inspired by the Penan in Sarawak, year 10 student Ed Jones has started making bamboo nose flutes based on the traditional Penan design.

The nose flute orchestra will be playing at the Christmas Orchid Festival on 14th December and nose flutes will be for sale to raise money for the Penan village school in Mulu as well.


Lepanthopsis astrophora – 365 days of orchids – day 1084


We have been out with the close up lens today to get a good shot of one of our iconic miniatures. Lepanthopsis astrophora has leaves less than 1cm long and relatively long spikes of tiny flowers each of which is a perfect purple star (hence the name). The flowers are long lasting and the species is in flower for most of the year although this month is particularly good for the tiny purple flowers – don’t miss it at the Christmas orchid Festival on 14th December.

The species is native to cloud forests in Venezuela and we find it succeeds mounted in a shady spot and sprayed daily. It is a good idea to keep a magnifying glass handy so that visitors can wonder at the lovely little flowers.