Christmas carols are full of references to the Virgin Mary but at the orchid project it is Isabellia virginalis that gets the attention.
This is one of Issy’s favourite orchids – after all it seems to be named after her! Actually a lot of us claim Isabellia virginalis as one of our favourite orchids. This close up shows the beautiful little flowers, that I would suggest are moth pollinated. The photo also shows the interesting basket like weave of fibres around the small pseudobulbs.
This fantastic miniature species comes from the Mata Atlantica, Brazil where it grows in cool forests with a wet summer and dryer winter (A habitat we have had the pleasure of exploring). It comes from the same habitat as many of the plants in our Cool Americas section and we grow it mounted and high up so that it has a little more light and less moisture than some of the other cloud forest species in this section.
I still haven’t found any thorough research on the evolutionary advantage of the basket weave protection but perhaps it could be protection against extreme weather or pests? If anyone has a theory please let us know. It is a reminder that the world’s rain forests are full of science experiments/observations that are still to be done.