Masdevallia tonduzii – 365 days of orchids – day 1063

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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. The species is native to Costa Rica and Panama where it grows in forests from 400-1400m altitude making this a bit warmer growing than most of our cloud forest Masdevallia species.

The inside of the flower is hairy adding further to the the brilliance of this little species .

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.

In horticulture one is always learning and we grew this species for many years in our Cool Americas section with the rest of the Masdevallias. We noticed that that the plant failed to increase in size and noting the low altitude it can be found at in the wild tried growing it warmer. It now spends all year in our Warm Americas section and has responded by growing more leaves than ever before and a record six flowers (the previous best was two.

This little orchid will also remind us of the importance of moderation with mulled wine at Orchid Christmas. (14th December 10am-4pm if you had forgotten)


Aerangis verdickii – 365 days of orchids – day 1062

It is Aerangis week in the greenhouse with several species in flower. Aerangis verdickii is one of our most significant species as we are working with FAWE School Rwanda on student experiments to reintroduce the species to trees in Kigali.

This Aerangis species 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. The large waxy flowers have 16cm spurs.

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 do have a large number of seedlings of this species in out laboratory and as well as sharing these with our partners in Rwanda for their school experiments 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.



Guarianthe bowringiana (Cattleya bowringiana) – 365 days of orchids – day 1061

We have another ‘Cattleya’ today to go with yesterday’s Cattleya pumila. This species is native to Central America and has been reclassified as Guarianthe as its phylogeny separates it from the cattleyas of South America.  We have several plants of this species, most are pink and one (the coerulea variety) is purply blue. Coerulea is being time lapse filmed in Bristol for a nature series, and so we only have the pink clones in the greenhouse this week.

Guarianthe bowringiana is native to Guatemala and Belize in Central America. It is usually found in dryish lowland forest and was seen by students on our trip to Guatemala near Yaxha at 300m altitude (see photo below). Plants come into flower during autumn and winter and produce long spikes with many flowers from the robust pseudobulbs.

We find the species enjoys a basket of well draining compost but heavy water when in active growth during the summer. We hang plants higher (and so drier) in the roof of its Warm Americas Section for flowering and over the winter months until growth starts again in the spring.


Cattleya pumila – 365 days of orchids – day 1060


Another frosty night here in Somerset but perfect tropical conditions in the school greenhouse, where Cattleya pumila has made its seasonal appearance.

This is a small growing but large flowered species from Brazil and it always causes some excitement when it comes into flower each autumn. We have several clones and all have been grown from seed. The species is native to humid coastal forests in the Mata Atlantica, Eastern Brazil. The species grows as an epiphyte from 600m-1300m altitude which suggests it can cope with wide range of temperatures but we find it does best in our Cool Americas section (Min 12C) where we water it throughout the year.

We have tried the species mounted and in pots and for us it does much better when mounted.