365 days of orchids – day 593 – Dendrobium cuthbertsonii

Here is another of our summer flowering favourites although these plants will be in full flower for the Bristol University Botanic Gardens Pollination Day on the first weekend in September (more info soon)

This beautiful miniature species is native to New Guinea where it grows as an epiphyte or lithophyte in mossy high mountain elfin forests. We find that the secret in cultivation is to replicate this habitat and so grow plant cool, wet and windy. We also find that plants prefer to grow mounted where there roots can establish on cork bark and plants can grow into impressive specimens.

The species is bird pollinated and comes in a wide range of colours including pink, orange, red, yellow and white – why not grow several different clones?

The flowers are extraordinarily long lasting and we have had flowers last nine months or more however we find that the plants benefit from the flowers being removed after a few months to allow the plant’s energy to into producing new growths. It is worth keeping an eye out for woodlice that will eat the roots or red spider on the leaves as either of these can cause a plant to go down hill and not recover.


365 days of orchids – day 592 – Masdevallia veitchiana


This is another species that flowers several times each year and is coming back into flower after blooming last in February. This species is endemic to Peru where it grows between 2000m and 4000m as a terrestrial on rocky slopes amongst grasses. This explains the long flower spikes which carry the flowers well clear of the leaves and in reach of pollinating humming birds.

The colour of the flowers is quite extraordinary with the glowing orange ground and iridescent stripes of red or purple. Close inspection reveals that the red areas of the flower are produced by tiny purple hairs that cover the orange sepals. The Incas call the species Wajanki.

We grow the species in baskets in Cool Americas.

This lovely species is variable as shown by the two clones we have flowering at present offering the opportunity to produce viable seed for the laboratory.


365 days of orchids – day 591 – Schoenorchis juncifolia

This pretty orchid flowers several times each year from its long pendulous stems and was last in flower in February. The species is native to Java and Borneo and in the wild it is found at around 1000m altitude. We find that the species is tolerates a wide range of temperatures and it grows well both in Cool Americas (minimum 12C) or in Warm Asia (minimum 16C).

We grow plants in baskets and let the stems hang downwards. Plants seem to enjoy regular watering and we spray them daily.

Schoenorchis is an interesting genus related to Vanda that includes some very small species such as Scoenorchis fragrans as well as large growing plants such as todays orchid of the day.


365 days of orchids – day 590 – Scaphosepalum ovulare


This species is a true miniature with leaves less than 1cm long forming a tight clump and 2mm egg shaped little flowers (the basket shown is 10cm diameter).

The species is endemic to Ecuador where it is found from 600-1200m implying a need for the warmer end of our conditions in Cool Americas. The flower spikes produce a succession of flowers and tend to be pendulous (notice the flowers emerging from the sides of the basket) and so growing the species mounted may make more sense next time we divide the plant.


365 days of orchids – day 589 – Prosthechea cochleata

This is an orchid that is always in flower. There hasn’t yet been a day in the last 12 months when we have been without a plant in flower and I am sure that will continue, Saying that we have several different clones that are at their best at different times of the year. The one above has smaller flowers and shorter stems and is its best in early summer. The plant below has larger flowers on longer stems and is more of an all year performer.

As well as continuous flowering the species is special to the Orchid Project as it is a species we have seen in the wild both in Guatemala and Belize and so it is a species we know very well.

In Guatemala we found the species growing abundantly in the hot dryish forests around Yaxha and on plant in particular on the edge of the cliff overlooking the lake has provided a key to successful culture. The plant and its habitat are shown below.

The plant is growing near the ground on a live tree made horizontal by hurricanes and the position is open but shaded. There is some moss on the trunk showing that this spot is a little damper than most of the surrounding forest (probably due to morning mists condensing on the cliff edge) but most dramatic was the size of the plants root system. We recorded roots extending over 1.5m in either direction from the plant representing both considerable mass compared to the leaves and bulbs, and an extraordinarily effective moisture gathering system. This shows that although the plant comes from a dryish habitat it enjoys frequent watering in cultivation as our roots are no match for the wild ones. It is also very apparent that none of the wild plants we found had shrivelled bulbs.

In Belize the species (known locally as the Black Orchid) is the national flower and it was a pleasure to see it again on our visit to Belize in coastal forest along rivers and in large evergreen trees further inland.

The species is found across Central America, the Caribbean and into North America and this wide range has resulted in considerable variation within the species – a good excuse to grow several plants of this wonderful orchid. The range also extends away from the hot lowland forests and up to 1900m and so it is not fussy about temperature.

The species is pollinated by large butterflies that grab onto the protruding lower part of the lip (we like to call them butterfly handles) and then follow the radial lines with their proboscises to the nectar.

We have found that the species is straight forward from seed and we have lots of seedlings growing well in our Warm Asia and Warm Americas sections. (we find that seedlings of the species grow best when kept on the warm side)