Bifrenaria harrisoniae – 365 days of orchids – day 1214


Today’s orchid of the day may not have the visual impact of yesterday’s Coelogyne velutina – but if you listen to your nose, Bifrenaria harrisoniae is in a class of its own.


The whole of the greenhouse is once again filled with the divine scent of Bifrenaria harrisoniae, a highpoint of April each year. The species, which has been a firm favourite since Victorian times, has thick waxy flowers that are long lasting if kept dry. If you are into scented plants, you just must grow this species. It is a real shame that we can’t provide scent with our photos here.

Bifrenaria harrisoniae is native to the Mata Atlantica, Brazil, and in 2000 our expedition came across it growing on a bare granite mountain side West of Nova Friburgo.

As the photo shows, plants are growing in full sun with their roots holding firmly to the rock and very little around the plant to retain moisture. This rock was dry in the winter when we visited but would be running with water for much of the wet summer season. After seeing the plant in the wild we adjusted our growing of the species to give more light but keep cool temperatures (the altitude was around 1000m) and we grow plants in the unshaded south facing doorway of the Cool Americas section.

The habitat also sheds light on the why the species choses April both to flower and release seed. In April the climate here is still dry meaning that flowers will remain undamaged until pollinated and seed released now will be able to blow across the dry habitat. In a months time there will be heavy rains, providing water for the new growths, the maturing seed pods and the germinating seedlings.


Join the Discussion


  1. Agnes Jones says:

    These little flowers look like they are singing back at you Simon. They are so well photographed showing all the tiny hairs, like a cat’s tongue but with a much more pleasant of odour.

    Last year, at the Devon show, I bought a Bifrenaria harrisoniae, in a jar, from you and last summer I planted two plant pots with it. At the time they looked just like grass but are now growing little psudobulbs. I can’t wait for them to flower and fill my house with their beautiful homely scent.