This wonderful flower belongs to Dracula bella. The first large heavily patterned flower has just opened with more buds to come.
We have a number of Dracula species in the school collection but this is the plant with the largest and most dramatic flowers. The species is native to dense cloud forests in Colombia and Ecuador at altitudes from 1700-2000m. We have seen other draculas growing in Costa Rica where we found plants restricted to wet mossy positions in low light. In common with most draculas, Dracula bella has strongly pendulous flower spikes and so basket culture is important, both to display plants, and to stop flowers becoming trapped in pots.
As you can see this plant suffered from heat stress early in the summer and will drop two leaves soon although there are new ones emerging in the cool of the autumn. We hung the plant in too bright a position and quickly moved it back to a shady spot under another orchid basket where it is easy to keep the plant wet, shaded and cool. When mature the species makes fantastic specimens – see our plant before division below.
The flower is a deceit pollinator and mimics a fungus with its strange lip to attract fungus gnats.