Vanda testacea – 365 days of orchids – day 1963

This week we are preparing for the Malvern International Orchid Show (The Counties Show) and so a big thanks you to the ex-student team who are running the show for us on thursday and friday before students join in at the weekend.

A plant that usually features at June shows is Vanda testacea. Vanda testacea is one of our smaller growing Vanda species, not much bigger than your hand but with relatively long upright spikes of pretty 2cm flowers.

Vanda testacea is native to The Himalayas from Nepal to Mayanmar and also from Sri Lanka where it is found from 700 to 2000m. The range implies it can take quite cool temperatures but we find it that it is vulnerable to leaf loss in lower temperatures, and prefers Phalaenopsis like conditions.

We find baskets of open compost are ideal for vandas that seem to enjoy producing long roots that hang down from the plant. We water by spraying each day.


Angraecum elephantinum – 365 days of orchids – day 1962

Our lovely Angracum elephantinum is in flower again despite having two fat seed pods from 12 months ago.

The name Angraecum elephantinum means gigantic angraecum but it is actually one of our smallest Angraecum species.

This plant is flowering for the fifth time eight years out of flask and is just 10cm high and 8cm across. Of course it is the flower that is gigantic compared to the plant and with two flowers out today the flowers  pretty much hides the whole plant.

The species comes from the mountains of Madagascar and the plant can be grown quite cool – we are growing it here at a minimum of 10C. In common with many Madagascan angraecums it has a very long spur with nectar in the end and so is pollinated by very long tongued hawk moths. The large lip is there to guide the tongue to the opening of the spur at the top of the lip. Moth pollination also explains the night scent of the species. To me the scent of this species is a mixture of Deep Heat and almonds.

This plant was one of the BOC babies given away in vitro at our first British Orchid Congress in October 2012 – this was one of the left over small ones – but well worth growing on. We mounted it on cork straight from the flask and it grows wet and bright so sprayed daily and near the top of a cool greenhouse. We will pollinate the flowers to see if we can raise some more seedlings for the future. If anyone out there has their BOC 2012 Angraecum in flower too – please send us a photo.

….and hopefully the seed pods will give more seedlings in a couple of years.


Odontoglossum hallii-elegans – 365 days of orchids – day 1961

Yesterday evening we had a visit from Keynesham Wildlife group and it was a treat to be able to share our diversity of flowering orchids with them, including this dramatic Odontoglossum species.

Odontoglossum hallii-elegans is native to Ecuador and forms a large growing plant with long spikes of 8cm wide flowers. Odontoglossums have now been included in Oncidium but as a genus Odontoglossum is useful as the species that were included share cultural requirements – cool, damp shade similar to their cloud forest homes – that differs from the majority of Oncidium species that come from lower altitudes and dryer forests.

We find Odontoglossum species do particularly well hung in baskets and watered daily throughout the year. We grow the species in our Cool Americas section.


Cattleya warneri – 365 days of orchids – day 1960

A second Cattleya to follow yesterday’s Cattleya purpurata is Cattleya warneri.

Cattleya warneri is another Brazilian species and like Cattleya purpurata is  a unifoliate cattleya (one leaved). It has very typical cattleya flowers which are large and frilly. The plant is however much smaller that Cattleya purpurata.

The species is endemic to Brazil where it is found as an epiphyte in warm forest on the Atlantic coast. The plants have stout relatively short club shaped bulbs and these produce really big flowers. The flowers photographed are 20cm across.

The leaves of this species can go a yellow colour if grown too bright in the summer and so we hang the species a little lower in the greenhouse (Warm Americas) than some of its relatives.

We are off to look for native British Orchids later today in a school safari to Cley Hill near Warminster – we will bring you some photos later – no Cattleyas expected but hopefully five chalk downland orchid species.


Cattleya purpurata – 365 days of orchids – day 1959

Our Warm Americas section is now awash with the flamboyant flowers of our early summer flowering cattleya species including the grand Cattleya purpurata.

Cattleya purpurata is the Brazilian national flower and is wonderfully variable. The variety ‘venosa’ describes a range of plants with deeper pink flowers than are usually found (two varieties above)

Flowers are long lasting and held on strong spikes held clear of the long leave. We particularly enjoy getting a ‘bee’s eye view’ looking straight into the lip with its radial stripes leading us to the nectar.

We have another clone which is the ‘carnea’ form (below)

Cattleya purpurata is found as an epiphyte in open forest up to around 1000m where it experiences a warm wet summer and a cool dryer winter. With us it reliably flowers in between May and July.