April is a month that often sees the Orchid Project exploring tropical forests and working with our fantastic project partners. Of course this April we are in lockdown – but we can still travel the world through our orchid species. Vanda ampulacea (which is also known as Ascocentrum ampulaceum) takes us to the warm lowland forests of the Sikkim Himalaya where it is one of the most dramatic species we have seen flowering during our expeditions to Sikkim.
Vanda ampuilacea grows abundantly as an epiphyte in hot valleys from 200-500m altitude where it clings to trunks, branches and twigs of deciduous and semi-evergreen trees . Here it has to cope with a dry winter exposed to the sun and it does this by developing a very extensive root system that can store a lot of water. (see plant in situ below)
Note the lack of moss on the tree trunk showing the dry conditions experienced at low altitude in the dry season. We grow this species in a basket in open bark compost and keep it in Warm Asia (min 20C) for most of the year apart from a short completely dry rest in the roof of Cool Asia (minimum 10C) during February. Moving the plant back to warm conditions initiates flowering. I am really pleased to see that our plant has the same dark spotting on the tough leaves as this plant in Sikkim suggesting we have the conditions in Writhlington about perfect.