WSBEorchids

Maxillaria sophronitis- 365 days of orchids – day 1087

With our Christmas Orchid Festival just days away (14th Dec 10am-4pm) it is time to spot our christmassy orchids. We are all familiar with Robins, and Holly berries but for non-temperate climates what about Hummingbirds and Maxillaria sophronitis?

Maxillaria sophronitis is as bright as any Holly berry and this is to attract its humming bird pollinator in the wet rainforests of Colombia and Venezuela. It is found from 750m to 1500m altitude and so we grow it in both our Warm Americas and our Cool America sections. It seems not to be fussy on temperatures.

We have two very distinct clones of this species. A small growing clone with 4cm leaves and 1cm flowers and this larger clone that is flowering now with 6cm leaves and flowers approximately double the size. In other respects the two clones are very similar. We recently divided a large plant and have approximately 200 plants with many in flower or in bud.

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 plants enjoy lots of water and good light to flower well.

Here is one of our favourite humming bird photos.

In 2000 on our first visit to Brazil students took this lovely photograph of a humming bird visiting Cattleya wittigiana. Students recorded six species visiting the flowers but only one species of hummingbirds removing pollen.

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