Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference – fascinating day working with our partner scientists

The UK Government’s conference on the Illegal Trade in Wildlife has begun and the stand for the IUCN Species Survival Commission is attracting massive interest. The stand is a collaboration between scientists from Oxford University, Lancaster University and students from Mendip Studio School (The Orchid Project)

The conference is attended by policy makers and ministers from countries across the globe and focuses on the threats to the worlds most iconic species from illegal trade, and measures to limit this threat. Our stand is focussed on alerting visitors to the threats that many plants face and our sustainably grown orchids and the stories they tell provide a context for this message.

Chloe and Jess designed the display and with a little help from the rest of the team have created the stand identified by many as the most creative, dramatic and arresting at the conference.

Orchid features include two species included on CITES appendix 1, Vanda coerulea and Renanthera imschootiana which regulars to our website will know well. Jacob Phelps (who leads the Tropical Environmental Change and Policy Lab at Lancaster University) is also delighted to have the diversity of orchids represented including miniature South East Asian species which despite their small size are also threatened by the trade in wild plants.

The stand also includes key data on the real and a serious threats experienced by a wide range of plant groups around the world.


365 days of orchids – day 644 – Cattleya bowringiana


One of the plants we are delighted to take to the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference 2018 is this amazing Cattleya species from Central America.

Cattleya bowringiana (now named Guarianthe bowringiana) is usually pink (see Guatemala photo below) but this variety is purply blue. It is native to Guatemala and Belize in Central America and is the most northern-growing of the Cattleya species. It is usually found in dryish lowland forest and was seen by students on the trip to Guatemala near Yaxha at 300m altitude (see photo below). They come into flower during autumn and winter and produce long spikes with many flowers from the robust pseudobulbs.

We have the normal variety in bud and that will be joining coerulea in flower next week


365 days of orchids – day 643 – Masdevallia mystica

This wonderful small growing Masdevallia flowers on and off throughout the year. It is possibly a natural hybrid and is found in Colombian cloud forest. One parent is probably Masdevallia filaria that it grows amongst but the other possible parent is a mystery – hence the name.

We grow this species in baskets, mounted and in pots in Cool Americas and when kept cool and damp rewards us with vigorous growth and regular flowering.


365 days of orchids – day 642 – Vanda coerulea

Yesterday’s orchid was a tiny flowered stelis species and a complete contrast we have our giant Vanda coerulea today in full flower with seven spikes and more than 10ft from top to toe (top bud to lowest root tip)

This wonderful species from North East India through to Thailand is one of the ones that stops visitors in their tracks with its large blue/purple flowers and intricate patterning, especially if it is the size of our specimen.

Unfortunately the attractiveness of the species has caused it to become very rare in the wild and it is designated as CITES appendix 1 to help protect surviving populations. It is widely grown from seed although nurseries tend to focus on large round flowered clones (like ours) for propagation rather than embracing the natural diversity within the species.

This makes this plant an ideal species to take to the Conference on the illegal trade in wildlife on Wednesday (see our recent post)


The plant is native to deciduous monsoon forest from 800 to 1700m which means it prefers cooler temperatures than most large growing lowland Vandas although selective breeding has tended to focus on plants that tolerate warmer conditions to suit commercial orchid production. We grow our plants in Warm Asia where they do very well and eventually produce side growths that produce flowers at the same time as the lead growth.



All action as students prepare for the British Orchid Show and Congress

With less than a month to go until the British orchid show we are working hard to prepare everything including the greenhouses for the invasion of visitors keen to find out about our wonderful orchids.

We have been asked about buying tickets for the event and just to confirm, those coming for the whole weekend will need to register as registrants and then have access to scientific lectures, the Friday preview evening and all the show days. If you are coming for the day on Saturday or Sunday just buy a ticket on the door – we will have lots of signs to help you find your way.