Ansellia africana – 365 days of orchids – day 1525


This knock out orchid is stealing the show again in the School Greenhouse. Seeing this orchid flowering reminds me of our wonderful trips to Africa where this species is appropriately known as the Leopard Orchid.

Ansellia africana, the Leopard Orchid, is found right across tropical Africa from South Africa in the South, where we have seen plants growing in coastal forest near Durban, to Uganda in the North.

The forest we found it in in South Africa was open and experienced a seasonal dry season in the winter giving a clue to the correct cultivation of the species which is to grow it in good light with a wet summer when it is in rapid growth (plenty of feed too) and then a dryer winter rest when it flowers but does not grow. In fact many of it native habitats experience long periods of drought.

We have four large plants now of this clone which we raise from our own seen in the school lab. The seed was sown by students in 2004 and the plant was sold at the Eden Project in-vitro in October 2006. It then spent nine happy years with its owners in Cornwall before outgrowing the available space. It was donated back to Writhlington where it was clearly delighted to be home filling Warm Americas with its lovely spotted flowers during February, March and April and winning a number of awards including a cultural certificate from the RHS.

The plant has been divided and we have kept four large plants. The plants sat without leaves or new growths for four years after dividing showing a natural response to what the plant must have identified as a sustained drought before bursting back into growth.

Plants are huge, with 1m long pseudobulbs that produce 70cm branched spikes and hundreds of flowers. We have never seen a clone as good as this one which was a cross between the dark form of the species and a lighter spotted one.


Join the Discussion


  1. When do you start cutting back on water for its winter rest, and when do you start watering again?

    This orchid was in the first batch of flasks we ever bought from you, although I don’t know if it’s this clone. Anil still has one of those plants on his kitchen windowsill. The location isn’t ideal, so although it grows it doesn’t flower. Having read your post he will now move it and change the culture to see if he can make it happier.

    • J Baran says:

      I need some help with this one as well! Same story here…had one for two years now, 3 new canes. Keeping on a south east window sill. At the moment only watering if I see the pseudobulbs shrivel. I tried putting under a grow light as well over the winter, and I think it got confused and started dropping leaves within a week!

    • Simon Pugh-Jones says:

      Ok – I would say increase watering – we keep our damp all through the winter – This species appreciated heavy feeding from March until September to grow a cane big enough to flower (the thirst for feed is shown by the species growing upwards roots to catch debris to make its own compost heap. Send a photo and I will have a look at your plant for any extra tips.

    • Simon Pugh-Jones says:

      Send a photo – lots of food and water from March to september is the key