365 days of orchids – day 507 – Encyclia bractescens

This is a small growing delicate little Encyclia. The species comes from Central America and we have seen it in Belize a few miles inland from Belize city. Encyclias are Laelineae and so related to Cattleyas and Laelias that tend to have tall pseudobulbs and thick stiff leaves. Encyclia bractescens is something of an exception with thin grass like leaves and small pseudobulbs. The long lasting flowers are large for the size of plant and although it seems slow to multiply up to being a specimen it is a rewarding plant to grow.

In Belize we found it growing as an epiphyte in regrowth forest in one of the villages that form the Community Baboon Sanctuary which is actually a sanctuary set up more that 25 years ago with WWF support that set up skeleton forest in a group of villages in Belize. Skeleton forest is continuous forest shared with villagers who all keep 50 yeard of forest at the edge of their land. Although called a Baboon reserve it is aimed at protecting Black Howler Monkeys which we have met and enjoyed watching (and hearing) in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Belize.

We saw Black Howler Monkeys in the reserve (see below) and lots of Orchids too. If you protect habitat for one species than all the biodiversity benefits.

One of the orchid was Encyclia bractescens growing as an epiphyte on the truck of a small tree in fairly open forest and dappled shade (shown nicely on our photograph). The altitude was around 100m above sea level.

 Flowering in Belize.

We grow this species in Warm Americas in a basket to give good drainage though we water well during the summer (wet season in Belize)


365 days of orchids – day 506 – Cattleya warneri ‘alba’


We have lots of South American cattleya species coming into flower in the greenhouse this week and on of the most dramatic is Cattleya warneri ‘alba’. This is a unifoliate cattleya (one leaved) and has very typical cattleya flowers which are large and frilly.

The species is endemic to Brazil where it is found as an epiphyte in warm forest on the Atlantic coast. The plants have stout relatively short club shaped bulbs and these produce really big flowers. The flowers photographed are 20cm across.

The leaves of this species can go a yellow colour if grown too bright in the summer and so we hang the species a little lower in the greenhouse (Warm Americas) than some of its relatives.


365 days of orchids – day 505 – Pleurothallis sclerophyla

This is one of our favourite pleurothallis species and it is looking just amazing this morning. It comes from Brazil and produces a dramatic display when its long spike of spidery flowers in such profusion that they hide the leaves of the plant.

We have seen the species flowering in Brazil where we found it growing abundantly of mountain ridges at around 1200m in cloud forest.

This photograph of the species near Macae de Cima shows a plant growing in the trunk of a tree in moist forest with a fair amount of moss on most trees and additional humidity coming from the large amount of bromeliads present in the habitat. The photo shows old spikes as well as new and the habit of flowering for many years from the same leaf axil explains the dramatic flowering display give by mature plants like our one in the school greenhouse.

Cool Americas gives a close match with the native habitat – cool (min 12C) , moist, and shaded. We find the species does very well mounted.


365 days of orchids – day 504 – Gongora gratulibunda

We have several planta of Gongora Gratulibunda in flower or in bud this week. This species is great value with long spikes of large flowers produced from medium sized plants.

This clobe is orange/yellow with fine red spots but we also have a pure yellow clone (below) and another with large red spots.

We grow the species in the Warm Asia section along with our other Gongoras and in the wild it grows in warm mountain forests in Colombia at around 850 to 1600 meters. Like all our Gongoras we grow the plant in a basket so that its pendulous flowers can hand down from the plant.


365 days of orchids – day 503 – Lycaste aromatica

Our greenhouse is full of a strong spicy scent as our aptly names Lycaste aromatica has burst into flower. Twenty flowers are out already and there are another fifteen buds to open tomorrow – what a gorgeous sight.

This free flowering species is native to Mexico and Central America where it grows as an epiphyte of lithophyte in semi-deciduous forest. It uses its powerful scent to attract euglossine bees (perfume gathering bees) and in common with many plants adopting this strategy has fairly short lived flowers (a couple of weeks).

The native habitat experiences a marked dry season and so the species drops all its leaves in November and remains leafless until April or May. We reduce watering to almost none while there are no leaves but in the summer once growth is underway we water heavily to support the rapidly growing lush leaves.

It suits our temperatures in Warm Americas with a winter minimum of 15C