365 days of orchids – day 714 – Masdevallia pandurilabia


A lot of our cooler growing orchids are really enjoying the winter with cool damp nights and the gentle sunshine that filters into the greenhouse at this time of year. This is especially true of our masdevallias that are in rapid leaf growth as well as many of them coming into flower.

A  winter masdevallia highlight is this small growing species native to Peru. Masdevallia pandurilabia grows in cloud forest above 2600m altitude and loves it cool and moist with good air movement. Some species from similar habitats are a challenge to grow well in a greenhouse but this species seems to be a vigorous grower and as you can see from the photo on the left produces lovely glossy leaves too. We grow this species in baskets of bark and moss and give it a minimum of 10C.

The flowers are produced in some abundance on long flower spikes and have dramatic spotting and crossed legs (tails). Despite the unusual spots and crossed legs the species gets its name from its lute shaped lip (its actually rather small so a teeny weeny lute)

See if you can spot the tiny lutes at Orchid Christmas tomorrow evening (open to the public 6pm-9pm)


365 days of orchids – day 713 – Restrepia striata

December is a great month for restrepia species. These small growing plants produce lots of flowers, throughout the year, from both old and new leaf axils and add real interest to any collection.

Restrepia striata is one of our favourites with medium sized (3cm) flowers produces in profusion well clear of the leaves and giving a lovely display.

The species is native to South America where it is found from Colombia to Peru in wet forest from 1200-3000m. We find this species straight forward in cultivation as it seems tolerant of a wide range of light levels and temperatures. We grow it in Coll Americas and enjoy flowers throughout the winter months.

We find plants do well mounted, in baskets and in pots. Plants are easily propagated from leaf cuttings (a leaf and stem) potted into moss.


365 days of orchids – day 712 -Pleurothallis rowleei

This stunning large flowered pleurothallis species is new to 365 days. The species is wet found in forests from Costa Rica to Ecuador where it grows in shade and is found over a wide range of elevation from warm forest at 350m to much cooler forest at 1750m.

We find the species is very happy in our Cool Americas section with other members of the genus although its relative warmth tolerance means that this mounted plant did not suffer and apparent stress from our warm summer this year. This should make the species an ideal choice for anyone who is interested in growing pleurothallis species on a windowsill

Individual flowers last several weeks and the plant produces a succession of flowers over several months so this plant will be a feature in the greenhouse well into the spring.


365 days of orchids – day 711 – Laelia gouldiana

With Orchid Christmas approaching (do come and join us on December 12th 6-9pm) our Cool Americas section is once again turning pink as the Mexican Laelias come into bloom.

The first to flower is Laelia gouliana. This is a strong growing species with large fat pseudobulbs and flower spikes up to 120cm long. Each flower spike is topped by 6 to 12 large pink flowers. The flowers are long lasting and make Christmas with us a very colourful festival.

We grow plants in baskets and pots. In baskets plants produce an abundance of arial roots that give Cool Americas a proper jungle feel and a favourite for film crews (see the opening sequence of our last year’s BBC Countryfile feature)

We water plants heavily in the summer when in growth and keep them hung in the roof of the greenhouse where they get good light and dry out quickly after watering.

The species was endemic to cool mountain woodland in Hidalgo State, Mexico but is very sadly now extinct in the wild. It is quite common in cultivation suggesting that wild collection was a key factor in its disappearance. There is excellent research published in Lankesteriana  in 2007 which looks in detail at the many threats faced by Mexico’s orchid species. The research also gives the date extinct species were last recorded in the wild or when the  last section of their habitat was destroyed. This makes depressing reading and highlights the importance of sustainable production of orchids; to reduce any demand for wild plants, act as a focus for education, and in some cases facilitate reintroductions. Extinction of Laelia gouldiana in the wild is dated 1998.

Here’s wishing you all an early Pink Christmas and a future where our biodiversity is protected for generations to come.