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)