Masdevallia tonduzii – 365 days of orchids – day 1400

For our 1400th consecutive daily orchid post, of a species in flower, I am pleased to celebrate one of my favourite Masdevallias.

Masdevallia tonduzii is a small growing Masdevallia with very large flowers . The plant shown here is in a 3cm pot and so the leaves are 5cm long and the flowers 12cm across including the tails, and hairy inside. The species is native to Costa Rica and Panama where it grows in forests from 400-1400m altitude making this a bit warmer growing than most of our cloud forest Masdevallia species.

As I reported last year we now grow this in our Warm Americas section, rather than in Cool Americas with most of our masadevallias, to suit its preference for higher temperatures and a brighter environment with dryer air, although we water the species very heavily, as witnessed by the thick layer of mass that has grown on the compost surface. The plant is slowly getting bigger in its preferred environment and has three flowers and another five buds. Hopefully it will soon be in need of splitting so that we can share this wonderful species around.

As I have said before, the species is named after Adolphe Tonduz a Swiss naturalist who was invited to Costa Rica as part of a drive for education and science in the country in the 1880s. He contributed greatly to knowledge of the amazing plant diversity of Costa Rica between 1889 and 1920 but sadly died an alcoholic aged 59. If you would like to know more about his life and work there is a great article about him.

This little orchid will also remind us of the importance of not spending too much on alcohol – so why not spend your money on Masdevallias? – the healthy way to happiness 🙂


Something new for half term

It is our half term holiday at school but we are pleased to say that the orchid shop is still open – as usual we are in every day to care for our plants. For the first time we are able to offer a couple of plants of the wonderful miniature species Masdevallia ludibundella – we expect that plants will flower this winter and again in early summer.

We also have some specimen plants of Coelogyne flaccida

…and restocks of Masdevallia rolfeana, Laelia anceps, Restrepia striata and Dryadella simula.


Coelogyne fimbriata – 365 days of orchids – day 1399

I woke up this morning to this wonderful show from Coelogyne fimbriata on my bathroom windowsill. The plant has been growing there for the past three years and is beginning to become a specimen covered in its attractive little two leaved bulbs and smothered in delightful flowers from October to Christmas. The flowers are produced successively on short spike with two or three flowers on each spike.

We have seen this lovely species growing in Sikkim and Laos where it climbs through the lower branches in open forest at around 1200-1500m and can make massive specimens over time that fill the lower canopy of trees.

We grow plants cool and wet to replicate the natural habitat, and in my bathroom it means watering heavily once or twice a week and spraying the top of the compost in between times. I dont let the plant sit in water. I water with rain water plus week feed. The feed is a high nitrogen feed to which we add a little calcium.


Barkeria lindleyana – 365 days of orchids – day 1398


Autumn is a great time for Barkeria species in the greenhouse, and we believe that this dramatic group of Central American orchids deserve to be more widely grown. We have four species and all of them have large spectacular flowers as well as interesting growth habits with masses of roots.

This Barkeria is found in from Mexico to Costa Rica in warm deciduous forest where it experiences a distinct dry season. It responds to the dry habitat by producing a mass of roots and growing tall canes rapidly during the summer growing season. The flowers are beautiful and long lasting.

We find that Barkerias need to be mounted to do well as the roots rot in pots and we hang the bark mounts high in Warm Americas where plants get bright light and dry out rapidly after daily spraying. This plant has three flowering bulbs – one long one and two short ones which is a reminder that the species flowers when quite young from shorter bulbs but as it matures produces longer and longer bulbs with more and more flowers.


Life after the project part 3

WOW! It has been two years since my last update on the blog and what two years it has been. Firstly, I graduated from University of Chester in July 2019 with a first class degree in Conservation Biology. Then I was lucky enough to secure a job in Greece that summer working with volunteers monitoring Loggerhead turtle in Kyparissia bay, which is the busiest nesting site in the Mediterranean. I helped protect and record nest, watch hatchlings emerge and excavate nests.

I have been determined to spend a lot more time in Africa after my first trip in July 2014 to Rwanda with the orchid project. So, at the end of last year I decided I was going to train as a field guide and came to South Africa in January to complete a yearlong field guide course and as of June 2020 I am now a qualified field guide! With this year posing challenges for all of us, it was not a normal course however being lockdown in the South African bush for 2.5 months is potential one of the best places to spend it. I was meant to then complete a placement in the lodge industry however with COVID and the lack of international tourist this was not possible. I now find myself on a research course instead, across the road from my field guide course campus going out exploring South Africa doing biodiversity surveys. We are currently coming into summer with temperatures reaching 39oC but this is great as we have just had our first rains of the season and all the insects and reptiles are becoming more active.

Being able to spend the whole year in South Africa has meant I am able to see the flowering season of many orchids which I have not been able to before due to being the wrong season. On campus we have a big Ansellia africana which is just coming into flower and I am sooo excited as I have never seen it flower in the wild before. Having sown a lot of Ansellia seed during my time on the project this is the orchid I want to see flower the most. On the research course we also get the opportunity to explore the mountain region which has some amazing forest and high altitude grasslands and it was here I saw my first flowering orchid in South Africa, Polystachya ottoniana and Bulbophylum sandersonii.