It has been a busy week in the propagation lab with A level students working on their germination tests. Each student has been investigating a different orchid species and identifying optimum germination conditions in vitro. In the photo Gracie is using one of the WIFI microscope cameras to record the germination of her seedlings. All her work is done inside a laminar flow cabinet to maintain microbe free conditions.
This lovely free flowering orchid is native to warm forests in Southern China and Vietnam where it experience a wet summer monsoon and a cooler dryer winter when it flowers.
We find it enjoys warm temperatures in Warm Asia and although we grow it in a basket to show off the lovely pendulous flowers we work hard to keep it well watered in the growing season from March until September. Flowers are produced from the centre of new growths every spring.
We have two clones of this species which are very different in growth form with this clone having longer bulbs and longer flower spikes. The flowers however are very similar.
This must be one of our weirdest orchid species. Bulbophyllum is a small growing Bulbophyllum with a remarkable flower spike consisting of many small black flowers which each produce three thin dangly tassels which are attached to the end of each sepal and sway too and fro in the slightest breeze.
This species is notable as one of our most exciting finds in the wild. On our last expedition to Laos we were trekking to one of the famous waterfalls of the Bolevan Plateau when our attention was taken by a ‘fluffy dangly thing’ just above our heads. It turned out to be two flowering spikes of Bulbophyllum lemniscatoides coming from leafless pseudobulbs. (photos below)
The habitat of the species was humid evergreen forest near a river at about 1000m (see photo below) and so the plant is best suited to growing in our Warm Asia section although it benefits from a cooler dry winter period in the roof of Cool Americas along with a number of our Asian species. If you are going to southern Laos in the near future I can tell you where to look.
We grow the species high in our Warm Asia section and mounted so that it gets good drainage (the plants in the wild were on bare bark with no moss) and the newest bulb drops its two leaves in December before sending our the thin upright flower spike.
Our next challenge is to pollinate it.
This delicate and graceful species is a national flower of Myanmar and has features in traditional songs and literature as well as in buddhist traditions.
We first came across the species when asked to grow it from seed by a local Buddhist centre where they grew the species in the traditional way on coir matting. We found that the species is easy from seed in-vitro and can even flower in jars.
The species comes from seasonally dry lowland forests and drops its twin leaves in the winter. We find that it needs a really dry winter (we put our plants up on a shelf) or it doesn’t flower and is liable to rot but the particular requirements of the species are worth the effort for these lovely fragrant flowers. During the summer we water heavily to encourage large bulbs for good flowering and the species spens all year in our Warm Asia section.
In Myanmar it is known as Thazin and is popular for bridal adornment but as we have no-one getting married in orchid project this month we will enjoy the flowers and pollinate a few for the next generation of seedlings.
If you are interested in the Orchids of Myanmar do look up the conservation project being developed by our good friend Dino Zelinka and Thant Sin Aye. Their next tour to Myanmar is being organised and more details can be found at their website.
Tiny orchids can often be the most impressive and this stunning miniature is a good example. The plant here is about 10cm across and for the next month of two will be a cloud of relatively large yellow flowers.
Pleurothallis grobyi is a species recorded from as far North as Mexico and as far south as Peru and Brazil. The clone we have here in cultivation originates from Ecuador but we have seen different forms of the species in Brazil, Belize and Guatemala. We have found the species in both mountain cloud forest and shaded spots in hot lowland forest and so this is a very variable species or possibly one that should possibly be spilt into several separate species.
The diversity is shown by some of the plants we found growing in Brazilian cloud forests around Macae de Cima in 2005. These included dark yellow striped forms, creamy forms and white forms.
All of the plants we found were growing in primary forest in shade with abundant moss growing around them suggesting that plants appreciate being grown wet and shaded in cultivation. We grow plants mounted on cork, in baskets and in pots and they succeed grown all of these ways with daily watering in Cool Americas.The picture below shows Callum Swift with a plant he found on a fallen branch that shows the conditions the plant grows in perfectly.
The plants we have found in lowland forests in Guatemala and Belize are restricted to mossy patches on dead fallen trees and branches and so are growing heavily shaded and much damper that the surrounding forest. The plants here also had shorter rounder leaves and white and pink flowers. (Below)
Whichever the form, this is definitely a species to look out for.