365 days of orchids – day 466 – Lepanthes elegantula


Lepanthes is a fascinating genus of mostly miniature orchids from tropical South and Central America that use deceit pollination similar to our native bee orchid by mimicking the sexual parts of a female fungus gnat to attract a male that pollinates the flower.

Lepanthes elegantula is one of the larger flowered species though still a small plant and the species is rarely out of flower on it long thin successively flowering spikes. As you can see we have a seed pod on one of the spikes so I guess one of the greenhouse gnats was tricked by a flower over the winter.

The species is native to cloud forests in Ecuador from 2800-3300m altitude and so we we grow plants in Cool America, in a wet and shady place, away from sunlight. We have seen lepanthes species in Costa Rica and always find them in mossy, dark, damp conditions.

The species flowers as a young plant and we currently have plants in flower in flask (photo below)

Let’s hope we have lots more viable seed to sow from the current seed pod.


Hard at work during Mendip R & D

A key element of the Orchid Project is Mendip R & D. On Thursdays after school and Friday mornings Mendip Studio School students work on projects ranging from electronics, science, technology, computing and of course orchids. McKenzie, Ronnie and Connor are continuing their Coelogyne cristata project and made media this morning. Paige and Martha are working on the project with the Timsbury Cheshire Home and spent this morning re-plating their Cymbidium hookerianum seedlings in-vitro.


365 days of orchids – day 465 – Dendrobium chrysotoxum


Another yellow dendobium today and one we have seen growing in southern Laos. Dendrobium chrysotoxum is native to seasonally dry forest monsoon forests and we found it in several locations at around 1000m around Paksong on the Bolaven Plateau. Plants were mostly growing on the trunk and lower branches of large trees in good light as shown on the photo below.

In cultivation we reflect the natural habitat by growing plants warm and wet in the summer in Warm Asia but give a cooler and much dryer winter in the top of Cool Americas. We find that baskets are ideal for this rewarding species.



365 days of orchids – day 464 – Dendrobium fimbriatum

According to Otto and Ed, this is an orchid species worth celebrating. Dendrobium fimbriatum is an orchid we have seen growing abundantly in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in semi-deciduous trees in warm lowland forests up to about 1000m. In the wild it makes large dramatic specimens just like this one in our Warm Asia section.

Flowers are produced in small sprays of about ten flowers from along the leafless pseudobulbs from two to five years old (so don’t cut off old bulbs until they are completely dead). Its native habitat is warm and wet in the summer but distinctly dryer in the winter with a significant drop in temperature from the summer and so we find the species responds well to moving to our Cool Asia section (minimum 10C) for a few weeks in January before moving back to its normal spot in Warm Asia (minimum 17C) where it then flowers.

In Sikkim we have noticed that large plants collect a lot of dead leaves in their crowns which presumably provide additional nutrient to plants and we find that the species responds well to lots of feed and water in the summer and quickly grows long pseudobulbs. The thin leaves of the species are attractive to red spider mite and scale insects so keep an eye out for pests.




365 days of orchids – day 463 – Cattleya schroderae

This amazing cattleya species from Colombia has opened a few days too late for the London Show – maybe next year. The species has very large flowers which I have heard compared frilly knickers but that is harsh.

With us the species is a strong grower and a reliable flowerer when grown in a basket of course bark hanging up in Warm Americas (Min 15C). The natural habitat is lowland montane forest where it grows as an epiphyte in large trees and so the species has evolved for bright warm and well drained conditions. Flowers are pollinated by large bees but attract orchid project students too and there has been a crowd around the plant this week.