looking around the greenhouse I realised that this species has been flowering for all of the past 12 months but hasn’t featured on 365 days – so today is the day.
The species is native to Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Guyana at altitudes of 1300 to 3500 meters and I have seen it described as a miniature and although the flowers are small grows into a very large plant over time. Our large plant again has over a hundred flower spikes constantly flowering and a froth of flowers surrounding the plant which grows in a basket. Each flower spike lasts three years and slowly gets longer and longer.
We have had the species since 1999 when it was donated by a grower in Devon and it has been in flower every day since – not bad. This plant won an RHS Cultural Certificate at the London Show in 2016 and is always a thing of beauty.
It enjoys being watered well and doesn’t seem to enjoy hot summers which usually result in a bit of leaf drop. It looks its best in the spring with this winters fresh green growth and a fresh crop of flower spikes just starting to flower.
We know that spring is here when the spring flowering Cymbidiums start to open and the first of the bunch is Cy,bidium hookerianum.
Cymbidium hookerianum is a fantastic charismatic species from the Himalayas and one we have seen growing and flowering in Sikkim.
Cymbidium hookerianum is a really cool growing species and in Sikkim we have found it from from 1500-3000m altitude. We have observed that plants flower profusely on dead trees suggesting that the species benefits from additional feeding during the growing season as well as good light. We grow the species in our Temperate section with a winter minimum around 6C to 7C which the plants relish. In our experience the species will grow warmer but will not flower as reliably.
Many cymbidium plants we have seen in their natural habitat are clearly very long lived and Cym. hookerianum in particular appears to have adopted a strategy of becoming established on a mature tree and waiting for the tree to die before flowering to its full potential to spread many millions of seeds around the forest. The sight of dead trees, in Sikkim forests, with giant plants of Cymbidium hookerianum laden in flowers and seed pods is a memorable one and reminds us that these plants enjoy good light and heavy feeding to flourish and flower well.
Cymbidium hookerianum in-situ (hard to spot at the top of this dead tree)
Another positive for the species is the name. Hookerianum honours Joseph Hooker, one of Britains great exploring botanists. If you haven’t read Hooker’s Journals I highly recommend reading them, and then exploring Sikkim for yourself.
Another fragrant orchid that impressed our visitors on Wednesday was the fragrant species (kind of sweet spicy) is from Central America.
As with all gongoras, this species uses perfume as a reward for pollinating Euglossine Bees. The male bees collect perfume off the slippery flowers and use it to attract a mate.
We find the species is one of our more vigorous Gongoras and although the flowers spikes are not that long and the flowers are less dramatic than some of its cousins (it lack of spots, eyes and bright colours of other Gongoras) it is always a welcome sight in the greenhouse and flowers on and off throughout the spring and summer.
The species is found in damp lowland forests from Mexico to Honduras and in common with other gongoras we find that it enjoys warm shaded and damp conditions in a basket.
We have had a really exciting day in the greenhouse with our visiting class from St Dunstan’s School, Glastonbury. Orchid project students gave tours of the greenhouse and workshops in laboratory propagation, botany and conservation.
A highpoint of the visit for some students was smelling the unusual scent of this dramatic Bulbophyllum species.
Bulbophyllum rothschildianum is native the Eastern Himalayan region of Southern China, North East India and Burma. I have been to the warm lowland forests of Arunachal Pradesh where the species is found. These forests have a very wet summer when growth occurs but a much dryer winter which is the flowering time. We find the species does well in both baskets or pots but appreciated good drainage and watering regularly even in winter so that the bulbs do not shrivel.
The flowers smell quite strongly of fresh fish (we think mackerel) which is quite pleasant as long as you are expecting it. We presume that the fly pollinators find it irresistible. To get an idea of flower size the pot in the photo below is a 15cm pot.
We have a real stunner today, Angraecum sequipedale from Madagascar.
The large star like flower opens slightly greenish and this will fade to a glowing creamy white in the next day or two.
This species is commonly known as Darwin’s comet orchid reflecting the well known story of Darwin predicting that there must be a moth on Magagascar (where the species is found) with a proboscis over a foot long so that it can reach the nectar at the end of the long spur (ours is now 36cm). The moth was subsequently found and is a hawk moth (Xanthopan morganii preadicta). There is a great video of it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUiZDhs0JrA
The spur is certainly extraordinary…as is the scent at night with the very heady (if rather chemically) fragrance which is worth visiting the greenhouse at night for.
The species is endemic to Madagascar where it grows in warm wet rainforest near sea level on the North East of the Island. We grow the species in Warm Asia and find it does well in pots or in baskets and appreciates a little more in the way of plant food than some of our orchids.
Our plant has been taken to Bristol today for filming at the Aardman studios and so it will hopefully be a film star soon.