Preparing orchids for this weeks RHS Orchid Show at Wisley is moving on a pace. Some of our plants will be on show for the first time but this plant has been a regular at spring shows more than twenty years. This wonderful orchid is one of our veteran plants and possibly our largest of member of the Pleurothallidinae (the subtribe of more than 4000 species including our Masdevallia, Stelis, Pleurothallis and Restrepia species).
The species is native to Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Guyana at altitudes of 1300 to 3500 meters and I have seen it described as a miniature and although the flowers are small grows into a very large plant over time. Our large plant again has over a hundred flower spikes constantly flowering and a froth of flowers surrounding the plant which grows in a basket. Each flower spike lasts three years and slowly gets longer and longer. The flowers themselves are well worth a close inspection – we particularly like the ‘fangs at the tip of the synsepal (fused lateral sepals) that happens to be at the top of these non-resupinate (upside down) flowers.
We have had the species since 1999 when it was donated by a grower in Devon and it has been in flower every day since – 23 years without a break in flowering is not bad. This plant won an RHS Cultural Certificate at the London Show in 2016 and is always a thing of beauty.
It enjoys being watered well and doesn’t seem to enjoy hot summers which usually result in a bit of leaf drop. It looks its best in the spring with this winters fresh green growth and a fresh crop of flower spikes just starting to flower. We grow the plant in a hanging mushroom crate that allows it to spread.