Sophronitella violacea – 365 days of orchids – day 1518

It is time to enjoy another February regular. The wonderful Brazilian species Sophronitella violacea.

Sophronitella violacea is native to Organ Mountains in Brazil where it grows in forests around 1000m and its flowers are 2.5cm across which is really rather large for this tiny species with 2cm pseudobulbs each topped by a single leaf. The species is pollinated by hummingbirds.

The Organ Mountains (Serra dos Órgãos) are a precipitous ancient granite mountain range near the coast in the state of Rio de Janeiro and the spot we visited during our expeditions to Brazil in 2000 and 2005 – Students on a ridge in the Organ Mountains below.

In cultivation we find it likes to grow cool and bright and wet but enjoy really free draining conditions. We grow all our plants mounted and hanging them high in our Cool Americas section where we spray plants daily, except in warm summer weather when we spray them twice a day.

Flowers only last a week but are so utterly charming that we would never be without this species in our collection.


Diploprora truncata – 365 days of orchids – day 1517

This fascinating little orchid species is one of only two species of Diploprora and this is its first feature on 365 days. We came across Doploprora championii in Sikkim where it could easily be confused with a small Phalaenopsis when  not in flower. Diploprora truncata becomes pendulous as it grows and produces spikes of delightful little flowers with an unusual forked tip to the lip.

It is always interesting to research a new species and this is very much enhanced by the initiatives to digitise herbaria. The type specimen is held at Kew and dated 1911 (below)

This is one of the collections made by A.F.G Kerr, a pioneering botanist in Thailand.

Diploprora truncata is recorded from Arunachal Pradesh as well as Thailand where it is found in warm forests from 1200-1700m altitude. We have explored this habitat in Arunachel Pradesh, where summers are warm and wet ,with cooler dryer winters, although we water plants throughout the year, and we grow with a minimum temperature of 17C.


Paphiopedilum tonsum – 365 days of orchids – day 1516

Our first paphiopedilum of 2021 is this stunning and reliable species from Sumatra.

This species which is native to North and Central Sumatra where it is found from 1000-1800m altitude as a terrestrial in deep humus and deep shade. We have found that the species really resents bright light and so we keep it well shaded all year.

In these conditions the attractive leaves flourish and flowers are produces on long vertical stems giving it a very stately presence. Plants flower throughout the spring and early summer with large plants flowering over a long period.

When we see our paphs flower we always remember the excitement of finding Paphiopedilum sanderianum flowering in Sarawak. As you can see from the photograph, that we took in October 2019, the plant grows on shaded vertical limestone cliffs.

Paphiopedilum sanderianum is unique for its remarkable 1m long spiralled petals and our photograph shows them beautifully against the dark cliff behind. It also shows that the flower spike grow horizontally to present the flowers to its pollinator (The cultivated plants I have seen have always had the spikes trained vertically up canes which loses the exquisite beauty of the flowers) I have heard it suggested that the long petals are to allow a pollinator to crawl up the flowers from the ground but as you can see the petals hang in mid air on the vertical cliff which blows that theory). The petals however make the flowers much more visible from a distance and that would seem the more likely evolutionary advantage.