365 days of orchids – day 711 – Laelia gouldiana

With Orchid Christmas approaching (do come and join us on December 12th 6-9pm) our Cool Americas section is once again turning pink as the Mexican Laelias come into bloom.

The first to flower is Laelia gouliana. This is a strong growing species with large fat pseudobulbs and flower spikes up to 120cm long. Each flower spike is topped by 6 to 12 large pink flowers. The flowers are long lasting and make Christmas with us a very colourful festival.

We grow plants in baskets and pots. In baskets plants produce an abundance of arial roots that give Cool Americas a proper jungle feel and a favourite for film crews (see the opening sequence of our last year’s BBC Countryfile feature)

We water plants heavily in the summer when in growth and keep them hung in the roof of the greenhouse where they get good light and dry out quickly after watering.

The species was endemic to cool mountain woodland in Hidalgo State, Mexico but is very sadly now extinct in the wild. It is quite common in cultivation suggesting that wild collection was a key factor in its disappearance. There is excellent research published in Lankesteriana  in 2007 which looks in detail at the many threats faced by Mexico’s orchid species. The research also gives the date extinct species were last recorded in the wild or when the  last section of their habitat was destroyed. This makes depressing reading and highlights the importance of sustainable production of orchids; to reduce any demand for wild plants, act as a focus for education, and in some cases facilitate reintroductions. Extinction of Laelia gouldiana in the wild is dated 1998.

Here’s wishing you all an early Pink Christmas and a future where our biodiversity is protected for generations to come.


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