This is one of our smaller Masdevallias. The plant is about 5cm across and produces gorgeous 1cm waxy, long lasting flowers in the autumn and spring.
The species is native to cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia and so we grow it cool and moist throughout the year. It seems to be particularly happy mounted on cork where its flowers grow horizontally and look straight at you. In a pot it can happen that the moss outcompetes the orchid where as mounted plants flourish for a long time without the need for repotting.
We have a special public event on Thursday this week at 6pm when Wildlife Film Producer Steve Nicholls will be introducing his new film (narrated by David Attenborough) all about Dragonflies and damselflies.
The film showing will be in the Mendip Building and entry in just £2 with all the money raised going to Mendip’s Reptile Group to support their plans for a new reptile house at the School.
It has been cloudy for the past three days with no sun and very little daylight but inside the greenhouse there is lots of colour with a real diversity of orchids doing their thing in the run up to our Christmas Orchid Festival on Dec 14th (all day from 10 til 4 – don’t miss it)
One plant that doesn’t mind the low light levels is this large flowered pleurothallis species. The species is found in wet forests from Costa Rica to Ecuador where it is recorded over a wide range of elevation from warm forest at 350m to much cooler forest at 1750m.
We find the species is very happy in our Cool Americas section with other members of the genus and although the reported range suggests it would grow much warmer, we find that our plants react badly to hot weather – losing leaves and dropping flowers if the temperature in the greenhouse gets much above 30C in the summer. It suggests that our plants are from the higher growing populations of the species.
Individual flowers last several weeks and the plant produces a succession of flowers over several months so this plant will be a feature in the greenhouse well until at least Christmas.
Today’s Cattleya is is native to northern Brazil and Venezuela where it grows in warm forest from 600-900m altitude. This is one of the unifoliate (one leaved) cattleyas from south America which has large pink flowers in common with other related species. Cattleya labiata was the first cattleya named (making it the type species) in 1818, which not surprisingly caused a real stir at the time.
An easy way to tell the related species apart is flowering time and this is an autumn flowerer from mature pseudobulbs.
We grow most of our cattleya species in baskets where they have excellent drainage and can produce masses of healthy roots. This plant is a first flowering seedling and has a rather attractive redish lip which is common in labiatas.
The species has been used extensively in breeding to create the variety of large flowered hybrids many of which (in my opinion) have lost the charm of the parent species which tend to have smaller, more open flowers that, like these two, look straight at you without the need for any staking or other support.
It seems that we have a Cattleya thing going on in the greenhouse again this week with several species bursting into flower. One of the most spectacular is this compact species from Brazil.T
This is an unusual Cattleya and one we have been keen to succeed with for many years. All other Cattleya species (apart from Cattleya nobilor) produce their flowers from the top of the pseudo-bulb but walkeriana produces flowers on spikes produced in the Autumn from the base of the newly matured pseudobulbs. The flowers themselves are also very distinct flowers and it is therefore difficult to confuse this plant with other species.
Cattleya walkeriana grows as an epiphyte in dryish areas often along streams across a broad area of Southern Brazil. It behaves rather as a xerophyte coping with long periods of high temperatures and little rainfall.
In cultivation we try to replicate the hot, dry, bright conditions it experiences in the wild by hanging it in a basket high in the roof of Warm Americas. We water it well when in growth but in the winter give it very little water. This helps us to grow large plump pseudobulbs but avoid and rotting off roots or bulbs in the winter. If you look closely at the basket you will see that it doesn’t contain much composts and no moss so that roots dry out very quickly after watering.
The flowers are long lasting and are very cheerful on a dark November morning like today’s.