365 days of orchids – day 708 – Maxillaria picta

Today the whole of the greenhouse was filled with the most gorgeous scent thanks to our large plant of Maxillaria picta.

It reminds me of the first time we found the species in Brazil. In April 2000 a group of students and I were walking through regrowth forest at around 1200m and were stopped in our tracks by a powerful honey sweet scent filling the air around us. Nearby we found the remains of an ancient fallen tree and a plant of Maxillaria picta at least 1.5m across still growing where it had fallen (photo below)

Presumably the plant had survived the fire that had swept through this patch of forest about thirty years ago and carried on growing on its now dead tree which has since fallen. The regrowth forest still lets plenty of light down to ground level and so the plant is growing and flowering happily.

Our school plant still has away to got to reach the size of the Brazilian species but with six to eight flowers per bulb it is getting there fast. We are looking forward to the day that this plant is 1.5m across.

We grow the plant in Cool Americas and water it throughout the year. The moss that has grown on the top of the pot shows just how wet we keep it in the summer.

We are sure that the plant will still be in flower for Orchid Christmas on 12th December but as the scent reduces at night it will be those who arrive at 6pm when we open that will get the best of the species.


365 days of orchids – day 707 – Platystele stenostachya

Some orchids make me wish I had better eyesight and this is one of them.

Platystele stenostachya is a mini-miniature found all the way from Mexico in the north to Peru in the South. It has been reported from sea level up to 1700m and with such a range is not surprisingly a variable species in terms of flower colour and shape. Our plants have tiny golden star like flowers with a deep orange lip. The species is almost always in flower and a really interesting addition to any collection.

The species is a tough little grower and produces lots of roots suggesting it can cope in dryer conditions that a lot of the tiny members of the pleurothallis family.



365 days of orchids – day 706 – Cymbidium cochleare


As winter draws in we are surrounded by Cymbidium species in spike or in flower and one of the most unusual is this very pendulous species from the Himalayas.

Cymbidium cochleare is a species we have seen in Sikkim and in the wild or cultivation it is instantly recognisable from its very thin pendulous flower spikes with glossy pendulous flowers that smell of jasmine.

We have a record three spikes on our specimen plant this year. The plant is a delicate cymbidium with fine dark green leaves and this species really needs to be in a basket to allow for the flower habit.

The species is found across the eastern Himalayas from Sikkim to Thailand and inhabits cool wet monsoon forests. We water the plant well to avoid drying in the summer especially as it is in a basket




365 days of orchids – day 705 – Trisitella heoijeri

To end miniatures week we have a  really tiny miniature. The leaves are 8mm long and the tiny roots spread no further than 10mm from the plant. The flowers however are gigantic in comparison at nearly 4cm across.

The species is native to cloud forests in southern Ecuador at around 1800m altitude where it grows in moss and shade on trunks and lower branches.

We grow the species mounted and do not add moss when mounting as we find that moss can out compete the tiny plant but, as you can see, moss grows naturally under the conditions we give plants. We then grow plants in deep shade and water daily.

We find that plants benefit from splitting before they get too large and start to go down hill when leaves start to die off and drop.

Another plant is shown below and the species tends to flower in the summer and again in the winter each year.