Maxillaria sophronitis is a humming bird pollinated species from wet forests in Colombia and Venezuela. It is found from 750m to 1500m altitude and so we grow it in our Cool America section.
We have two very distinct clones of this species. The one in flower now is small growing with 4cm leaves and 1cm flowers where as the larger growing clone has leaves and flowers approximately double the size. In other respects the two clones are very similar.
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 that good flowering is dependent on good light and if grown in shade plants produce few flowers. As a result the challenge is to grow plants hanging in good light but kept well watered especially and the ball of plant quickly grows away from its basket. The hard work is well worth it as when in full flower the plant is very impressive,
It is fortunate that the students in Orchid Project are observant or we could miss some spectacular events like the flowering of this miniature species.
Dryadella edwalii is a relative of Masdevallia is native to the Mata Atlantica cloud forests of Eastern Brazil. Students recorded Dryadella species on our 2005 expedition to Brazil on their trek up to Velutina ridge (the habitat of Cattleya velutina)
The dryadellas were growing on the lower trunks of stunted trees in elfin forest near a ridge at around 1200m altitude. The trees had a number of orchids on them including maxillaria species and pleurothallis species, and the dryadellas were growing below these other orchids and some of them growing very low light as shown in the photos taken in Brazil (Below).
We find plants do best for us mounted but then grown in heavy shade on a north facing wall and sprayed daily. The flowers are long lasting and small can produce a lot of flowers which stand well clear of the leaves but you need to keep your eyes open for the subtle flowers appearing between the leaves.
Today’s species is miniature and the plant shown here in its 3cm pot has 4cm leaves and lots of single flowers on 4cm stems.
Masdevallia minuta is native to Costa Rica to Ecuador and is a mini-miniature and we have a number of species with similar flowers (probably attracting similar pollinators) but this is the smallest growing.
This species enjoys being constantly damp and this results in moss forming on the pot which must be kept under control to stop it out competing the orchid. We grow the plant in our Cool Americas section in shade under other plants where it flourishes and can be divided every few years,
We are delighted that our favourite Phalaenopsis species is back in flower. Phalaenopsis mannii regularly flowers with us from January right through until July and despite the rigours of 2018 when it travelled to Paris in March (where it won the Best Phalalaenopsis trophy at the European Orchid Show) London in April, and to Malvern in June, it is back on schedule for another floriferous year in 2019.
Phalaenopsis manii is a species we have met in lowland forest on several of our trips to the Himalayas. The best plant we have seen was growing in Nameri National Park, one of Assam’s fantastic Tiger reserves. (see photo below)
The photo clearly shows the natural habitat for the plant. The forest is lowland seasonally dry forest and there is not sufficient rainfall or humidity for moss to grow on the branches colonised by the orchid. This plant is in the lowest branches of a large evergreen tree where light levels are quite low and it is protected from extreme desiccation in the dry season. The photograph also shows the very extensive root system this massive plant has developed over time (it must be at least twenty years old) and this will store a lot of water during dry periods as well as collecting a lot of water when it does rain.
It is also noticeable that in common with most Phalaenopsis species P. mannii has a pendulous habit which will prevent water resting in new leaves and causing rots. We grow our school plant in a pendulous way by letting it lean out of its basket. It clearly loves to grow like this and is now starting to form a clump a little similar to the wonderful specimen in Assam.
Coelogyne multiflora from the island of Sulawesi just east of Borneo is one of our large, warm growing Coelogynes. The broad leaves are 70cm long but conveniently upright and the dramatic flower spikes form from the centre of new growths in the early spring.
I challenge student to count the flowers each time the species flowers and today’s skike has around 380 (we can’t all agree on an exact number) and it lives up to its name ‘Multiflora’. We grow the plant in Warm Asia with a minimum of 17C which will be similar to the natural habitat in lower montain forests at around 1200m altitude. It is reported as growing on fallen tree trunks and we grow it in a large pot where we keep it damp all year and well shaded from direct sun.
Relatively few orchid species live on fallen dead trees but those that do appreciate additional feed to replicate the relatively nutrient rich environment they are evolved to suit. It is worth giving this species additional feed when in growth to build large bulbs that flower well the following year.