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.
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)
The summer can be quite a quite time for flowers in the orchid house as most species are busy getting on with growing rather than flowering. However a small restrepia collection can be relied upon to give you flowers throughout the year. This is Restrepis purpurea (new to 365 days) which is endemic to southern Colombia where it grows in cloud forests at around 1650m.
It does well with us either mounted, in baskets or small pots and propagates easily by division or from leaf cuttings. To propagate from a leaf we remove a leaf and its stalk, using clean scissors, and pot it deeply in a 3cm pot so that the base of the leaf is about 5mm below the top of the compost (moss and bark). With luck a new plant will grow from the base of the leaf after a few months.
One of our most reliable miniatures is this tiny vandaceous species from South East Asia and Malaysia.
The species grows in low montane and hill forest from 300-1300m and so it is very at home in our Warm Asia section. We grow this species on a small piece of cork bark as you can see in the photo. This shows the plant off in a natural way and stops it getting smothered by moss. We spray it with water once a day.
The flower is tiny but very attractive as long as you have good eye sight or a macro lens. We guess it must be pollinated by a gnat or a tiny ant as it is close to the stem. Flowers are produced throughout the year and are always a point of interest. We are pleased that the plants here has started to produce side shoots and so is slowly heading towards becoming a specimen.
Here is a photo from last year with Joe for scale.
This is a small sized Masdevallia native to Peru that grows in cool forest around 2300m altitude where it grows as an epiphyte of lithophyte. It has thick rounded leaves and the flowers are produced in profusion on stems much shorter than the leaves. The colouring is similar to Masdevallia oreas and several other masdevallia species but each has their own character and we are very fond of pyxis because of its vigorous growth habit and cute little flowers.
We find that growing the species mounted or in a small basket shows of the flowers to their best but it grows very well in a small pot. We find that it works well to stand the pot on something that allows you to see under the leaves.
We grow the species in our Cool Americas section.