WSBEorchids

Vanda coerulea- 365 days of orchids – day 1948

The mesmerising blue flowers of Vanda coerulea are with us again.

This dramatic species flowers several times throughout the year but is usually at is best in summer and autumn.

Our plant is nearly 4m tall and has several spikes of flowers coming or out. We used to cope with the plant’s height by hanging it in a doorway (flowering in 2018 below) and as you can see it flowers from the top as well as from its many side shoots – but now it is too big and we are going to have to split it up (wew will show you how when the time comes.

Unfortunately the attractiveness of the species has caused it to become very rare in the wild and it is designated as CITES appendix 1 to help protect surviving populations. It is widely grown from seed although nurseries tend to focus on large round flowered clones (like ours) for propagation rather than embracing the natural diversity within the species.

The plant is native to deciduous monsoon forest from 800 to 1700m which means it prefers cooler temperatures than most large growing lowland Vandas although selective breeding has tended to focus on plants that tolerate warmer conditions to suit commercial orchid production. We grow our plants in Warm Asia where they do very well and eventually produce side growths that produce flowers at the same time as the lead growth.

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Stelis benzingii – 365 days of orchids – day 1947

This wonderful miniature flowered species is in flower again today.

Stelis benzingii is a medium sized members of the genus with 12cm leaves and long spikes with densely packed 6mm triangular flowers on what is definitely one of our more floriferous Stelis species.

The species is endemic to Ecuador where it grows in warm lowland forests although we have found that the species does equally well in either our Warm Americas or Cool Americas sections. It does seem to be a shade lover and we have had leaves burn in April sun when not shaded.

In common with many stelis species the flowers of Stelis benzingii have tiny hairs. The hairs are white and confined to the edges of the sepals, giving the red flowers ‘snowy’ tips and a christmassy feel – very appropriate with December approaching.

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Angraecum erectum – 365 days of orchids – day 1946

Some orchids are equally attractive in their growth habit as in their flowers. This mass of roots and small white flowers is Agreacum erectum. The species has been in flower for months and now it is mature flowers on and off throughout the year. The 1cm flowers are evolved for moth pollination in common with most species in the genus and are fragrant especially at night.

This unusual little species is found in riverine forests in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia from 1300-2350m altitude and so is a coolish growing species adapted for a relatively dry but humid environment.

We grow the species in Cool Americas (Min 12C) hanging  on a long wire hook attached to the twig it once lived on! The plant lives up to its name and grows vertically with masses of roots and pretty little flowers along the climbing stem. It seems quite happy growing up its wire and it will be interesting to see how far it will grow.

Initially the plant did grow straight up as its name suggest, but now it has many growths and grows in all directions.

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Pleurothallis limae – 365 days of orchids – day 1945

This morning I found myself transported from the morning school rush to the mountains of Brazil thanks to this familiar little orchid with its tiny red flowers.

Pleurothallis limae is a Brazilian terrestrial species and we found it growing abundantly around Macae de Cima in Rio State in regrowth forest. We observed that it seemed to prefer growing in moss protected by scrubby regrowth, and made large mats of its heart shaped leaves. The habitat was in an area of regrowth at around 1000m altitude where the forest had burnt about twenty years before our visit in 2006 and the scrubby trees had reached about 3m in height with very few epiphytes.

The plant shown here was grown from seed collected in 2006 which flowered about six years from sowing. We find it does best for us in a basket on a bench in Cool Americas where it is kept damp and shaded.

Just standing by the plant I can smell the fragrant regrowth forest, feel the Brazilian sunlight on my face, and breath the humid morning air after the night’s mists and heavy dew…… just for a bit….then back to reality.

I hope your day has a bit of magic in it too.

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Epidendrum radicans – 365 days of orchids – day 1944

Some orchids are always in flower and Epidendrum radicans is one of them. I have heard it described as straggly as it climbs its way around the greenhouse but I would not be without it.

We have seen the species growing in Costa Rica in wet secondary forest at around 1400m altitude where the plant starts life at or near the ground and then scrambles up through the scrub. It has an interesting habit of developing twisting flower spikes that cling onto surrounding plants both in the wild and in cultivation. The flower spike shown here is well away from the pot it was once in and provides an unexpected and welcome burst of colour amongst neighbouring plants. On the downside, Epidendrum radicans produces lots of roots and these can take over nearby pots.

Epidendrum radicans grows long canes up to 2m long with terminal flower spikes. The flower spikes continue to produce flowers for more than twelve months and at any time they carry 10-15 really attractive flowers that are bright scarlet. The species is butterfly pollinated.

We grow plants in our Cool Americas to replicate the conditions we found in its Costa Rican home.

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