Stelis purpurea – 365 days of orchids – day 765


This species just about qualifies for ‘orange week’ as the small flowers have a picotee edge of orange/red which is very attractive on the buds and the flowers. The name however suggests that the flowers should be dark red or purple!

Our plant came from the nursery Ecuagenera and their website shows the species growing as a terrestrial in presumably good light as the plant has much redder flowers as the picotee edge is much more marked. (below)

Image result for stelis purpurea

As an experiment we will move our plant higher in the greenhouse and see what effect increased light has on the flowers.

The species is quite large for a stelis with flower spikes 40cm long and these give a real impact.

Stelis purpurea is reported as being found from Costa Rica to Peru and from 150m-2900m which sounds rather unlikely as this is a very broad range of habitats. It seems probable that the name is used for more than one species with purplish flowers but our version of the species is a lovely thing.


Dendrobium mohlianum – 365 days of orchids – day 764

Continuing this week’s orange theme we have another bird pollinated species but this time it is a dendrobium from Asia.

Dendrobium mohlianum is a dramatic species native to the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu (A real South Sea Islander). It is found in wet forests from 450 to 3000m altitude which indicates it is cool growing although we grow our plant very successfully in Warm Asia. It may be that our plant is propagated from plants found at the lower altitude range or that it is just not very fussy about temperature.

It is likely to be sun bird pollinated and the unusual folded up lip is adapted for the beak of a hovering bird rather than being a landing platform for an insect. The orange colour is also a classic bird pollination indicator and all the orchids this week have been bird pollinated species.

An unusual characteristic of the plant is to flower from old pseudobulbs – soma as old as seven years old on our plant. This produces a great display over time but remember not to cut off old leafless pseudobulbs or you will have no flowers. The flowers are very long lasting and with lots of buds still to open this plant will be at its peak from now until May.

We grow the plant mounted but to reflect its natural habitat we water it freely and are happy to let moss grow naturally on the cork mount which helps to keep the plant wet between waterings.



Masdevallia vietchiana – 365 days of orchids – day 763

The third species for ‘orange week’ is Masdevallia veitchiana. Regulars to 365days will be aware that this species flowers intermittently throughout the year and that the individual flowers last for a couple of months making this one of our most reliable masdevallias.

This species is endemic to Peru where it grows between 2000m and 4000m as a terrestrial on rocky slopes amongst grasses. This explains the long flower spikes which carry the flowers well clear of the leaves and in reach of pollinating humming birds.

The colour of the flowers is quite extraordinary with the glowing orange ground and iridescent stripes of red or purple. Close inspection reveals that the red areas of the flower are produced by tiny purple hairs that cover the orange sepals. The Incas call the species Wajanki.

We grow the species in baskets in Cool Americas.


Talk this weekend at the OSGB

I will be speaking at the OSGB meeting in London this Saturday (details here) and I look forward to meeting members both new and old. I will be bringing plants and so if anyone has any special requests please let me know through the ‘contact’ tab on our website.

I will be talking about growing cool orchids but am likely to stray into our methods for growing warmer things too.



Masdevallia mendozae – 365 days of orchids – day 762

To continue ‘orange week’ we have this wonderful miniature masdevallia species with outrageous orange tubular flowers.

Masdevallia mendozae is endemic to Ecuador where it grows in cool wet forests and we find it does best in a small basket with daily watering throughout the year. The tubular flowers pollinated by humming birds and are produced in profusion over a four month period in the spring. The species has 4cm leaves which for us grow rapidly during the cooler months of the year while it sulks a little during the summer when life in our greenhouse it a little warm for it. The plant shown is potted in bark and all the moss has arrived naturally as a result of the wet conditions we provide.

We have found that slugs are fond of the flowers both to eat and to hide in, and so it is worth keeping a close eye on the plant when in flower.