365 days of orchids – day 304 – Coelogyne barbata


Barbata means ‘bearded’ and the bearded coelogyne is a truly spectacular thing. This plant has been growing in Cool Asia since 1998 and is rapidly becoming a specimen plant. This year there are eleven spikes each with about ten large flowers. The dark brown ‘beard’ on the lip is probably an evolutionary adaption to limit access to just one species of bee to increase the chances of successful cross pollination.

The plant grows in a large basket and is kept wet in the summer and damp in the winter to reflect the habitat which is wet evergreen monsoon forest from Nepal to Southern China. We haven’t seen this species in Sikkim but we have visited the habitat (1000-1800m) where coelogynes are abundant.

We have just sown seed from flowers pollinated in November 2016 and there are still seed pods on the plant. This is a reminder of the time taken to grow orchids from seed – one year from pollination to sowing, two years in-vitro and then between three and eight years growing to big enough to flower – well worth the wait though.


365 days of orchids – day 303 – Masdevallia hirtzii

This small growing Masdevallia species is found in cloud forests in Ecuador and Peru from 1200-1550m altitude and so is well suited to conditions in our Cool Americas section (min 12C) where it grows in a basket that is kept well watered throughout the year and shaded.

This is one of a charming group of small orange masdevallias with tubular flowers evolved for pollination by humming birds but we find that the flowers are also very good at attracting people!

The leaves are light green and quite thin, which to us indicates a need for constant dampness, and 5cm long with the flowers produced well clear of the leaves which looks great and is necessary for bird pollination.


Latest news from the Eden Project/Orchid Project partnership

This week has been orchid planting week at the Rain Forest Biome at Eden and Hettie and her team have been planting an Orchid Wall near the entrance to the biome with the help of Jess, Issy and their parents. Plants used include many of the orchids supplied by the Orchid Project last year and the planting will act as a trial for exciting future orchid displays planned for Eden.

 The orchid team in front of the new orchid wall.



365 days of orchids – day 302 – Aerangis verdickii

This Aerangis species is found right across central and east Africa where it grows in woodland and copes with seasonal dry periods by storing water in its thick roots which form an extensive root system over time. It has grey green, waxy leaves also evolved to reduce water loss. The large waxy flowers have 16cm spurs.

It is of special interest to us as a Rwandan species and so our plant is a useful seed source for our partner projects in Rwanda. We have seen the species in Rwanda showing how it copes with a dry climate (see photo below) on a tree in the capital Kigali.

We do have a large number of seedlings of this species in out laboratory and as well as sharing these with our partners in Rwanda will have plants for sale in about twelve months time.

We grow the species in Warm Asia hanging in the roof where it receives good light, high temperatures and dries quickly after watering.

We currently have four species of Aerangis in flower and recommend this genus as a rewarding one to grow. We have trialled Aerangis as house plants and many seem very well suited to indoor culture.


365 days of orchids – day 301 – Holcoglossum wangii

We have had this warm growing species native to southern China and Vietnam in our collection for sixteen years and the plant produces a single flower spike each autumn with large delicate flowers. The leaves are thin and terete suggesting a dryish natural habitat although it is reported to grow on mossy conifers in open but humid forest from 250-1200m altitude.

We grow the plant mounted and spray it daily and keep it hanging high in our Warm Asia section.

Holcoglossum is a small genus (about 12 species) closely related to Vanda but distinguished by the very different lip shape. The long spur can be seen in our photo both in the buds and on the top flower and this feature suggests hat the species is pollinated by large moths or butterflies.