Masdevallia attenuata – 365 days of orchids – day 1493

Today’s species is a miniature Masdevallia with pretty little pointed flowers (attenuata means pointed). This little plant is growing in a 5.5cm pot has 5cm leaves and lots of single flowers on delicate stems.

Masdevallia attenuata is native to cool mountain forests from Costa Rica to Ecuador. We have a number of small flowered masdevallias with similar coloured flowers (probably attracting similar pollinators) that shine out amongst the dark green leaves of our Cool Americas section.

This species enjoys being constantly damp and this results in moss forming on the pot which must be kept under control to stop it out competing the orchid. We grow the plant in our Cool Americas section in shade under other plants where it flourishes and can be divided every few years. As you can see the plant is in active growth and enjoying the cool winter weather – and the school looks lovely with a layer of snow lying too.


Stelis purpurea – 365 days of orchids – day 1492


With yesterday’s snow still lingering outside the Greenhouse we have one of our midwinter orchids in flower. Stelis pupurea is one of our larger stelis species and a very graceful with 40cm flower spikes. Stelis purpurea has small creamy flowers with a picotee edge of red which is very attractive on the buds and the flowers. The name however suggests that the flowers should be dark red or purple, and we wonder how our plant’s flowers would look different if exposed to bright light (or brighter than mid winter light).

The native habitat of the species is grassland and the terrestrial nature of the species explains the long flower spikes which push up through the grass to attract their pollinator.

Our plant came from the nursery Ecuagenera and their website shows the species growing in habitat in presumably good light and the red picotee edge to the flower is much more marked. (below)

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Stelis purpurea is reported as being found from Costa Rica to Peru and from 150m-2900m which sounds rather unlikely as this is a very broad range of habitats. It seems probable that the name is used for more than one species with purplish flowers but our version of the species is a lovely thing.


Cleisostoma arietinum – 365 days of orchids – day 1491


A close relative of yesterday’s Cleisocentrum is this stunning small flowered, terete leaved orchid. Cleisostomas are small flowered relatives of Vanda with a range of growth habits but rather similar prettly little flowers that tend to open successively along relatively long flower spikes.

This is the ‘bent’ cleisostoma referring to the curved terete leaves. It is a warm growing species from South East Asia, India and Malaysia where it grows pendulously. We have seen related species growing in Sarawak,Arunachal Pradesh, North East India, and in Laos, in a wide range of habitats from cool mountain forest to hot dry lowland forest. We recently fount the very similar species Cleisostoma teretifolium in Baku reserve in Kuching (below) that shows the natural habitat we are trying to replicate in our Warm Asia section.

We find Cleisostomas work well mounted where their attractive growth habits can be enjoyed and the plants are able to dry out well between waterings. As Cleisostoma arietinum is a warm growing species we hang it high in our Warm Asia section where temperatures are highest. The bright light caused the leaves to turn purple which is how we have found similar species in the wild.


Cleisocentrum gokusingii – 365 days of orchids – day 1490

We have two Cleisocentrum species and Cleisocentrum gokusingii is smaller growing and smaller flowered than Cleisocentrum merrillium (below)

Both of these remarkable orchids are endemic to Mount Kinabalu, on Borneo, where they grows in wet evergreen forest between 1000 and 2000m. The species both have striking greyish, blue flowers with a purple stripe at the top of the spur and field observations show that the flowers are ant pollinated which explains the clustered flowers on very short spikes.

The close up of gokusingii above shows the delightful little flowers – I would be very attracted if I was an ant from Mt Kinabalu!

We grow the species in small baskets from which the plants grow in a relaxed upright fashion. Plants seem very at home in our Warm Asia section with a minimum of 17C with some shade, throughout the year, amongst other species native to the amazing forests of Kinabalu.

We have some fat seedpods on Cleisocentrum merrellium and will pollinate Cleicocentrum gokusingii tomorrow – fingers crossed for seedlings out of flask in two years.


Rhynchostele rossii- 365 days of orchids – day 1489

Some special orchid species have flowers that dwarf the rest of the plants and Rhychostele rossii is a good example.

This diminutive member of the Oncidium family is found in the cloud forests of Mexico and Central America, as far south as Nicaragua, from 2000-3000m altitude. As a result the species enjoys cool conditions and year round water.

The species usually flowers with us during March and April but has decided to flower early this year. The flowers last in good condition for eight weeks

We grow our plants in small baskets as we find that although plants enjoy lots of water they like good drainage too, and being miniature are at risk from being outcompeted by moss when grown in a pot. They also appreciate good light and we keep baskets high in the greenhouse.

We have two very distinct clones of the species and both of the clones are now flowering. The first has larger pinker flowers with browny-purple spots while the second produces a larger number of slightly smaller, and more star like flowers, and is white with orange-brown spots and stripes. Both clones are lovely and produce large flowers (up to 8cm across) on tiny plants with a 2cm bulb topped with a single 5cm leaf.