Octomeria crassifolia – 365 days of orchids – day 930

Octomeria densiflora iis a species we have had in our collection for twenty years and always a delight when it flowers. This is a beautiful species native to the Mata Atlantica cool cloud forests of Brazil and a species we found near Macae de Cima on our expeditions in 2001 and 2006 at around 1300m altitude.

The flowers are small but are produced in profusion. The grey-green thick leaves are also very attractive.

All of our plants have come from a single flask purchased from Equatorial Plants in 2001 and we regularly have small divisions for sale. The plants grow well in pots, baskets and mounted. We find that the mounted plants (such as these photographed) are the most floriferous but they suffer a little more with black spotting on the leaved from heat stress.

The flowers are short lived but produce a dramatic display with the small plants smothered in flowers.


Maxillaria praestans – 365 days of orchids – day 929

Our moist reliable maxillaria is this species from Mexico and Central America found between 1500 and 2000m altitude in humid evergreen forest and we find that it grows well both cool in Cool Americas (min 12C) and warm in Warm Americas (min 15C) as long as it is kept well watered throughout the year.

Single flowers are produced from the base of bulbs in summer and are large and showy with a distinctive black lip. Several flowers are produced from each bulb over a period of a few months making this a straight forward and rewarding species to grow. The flowers are long lasting and the ones that have opened this week will still be in flower for the Bee and Pollination Festival at the end os August.

We have noticed that wasps find our flowers particularly attractive and in the autumn when wasps become more common in the greenhouse several flowers get pollinated.


Barbosella australis – 365 days of orchids – day 928


The greenhouse is once again filled with a profusion of flowers on our many plants of Barbosella australis. This species is a real miniature with 5mm leaves along a creeping rhizome and relatively large flowers single produced in profusion. Barbosella australis is native to Southern Brazil (australis means ‘southern’ and doesn’t refer to Australia – the southern land) and we have seen related species in Brazil at around 1200m in primary forest where a colony can clothe the lower branches of a tree. The species produces a profusion of flowers from both new and older leaves.

We find that the only way we can grow this species well is mounted on bark where it can grow where it wants and eventually surround the cork mount as our plant has here. We spray our plants once a day. In pots plants become overwhelmed by moss.


Vanda falcata – 365 days of orchids – day 927


One of the highlights of a cool greenhouse in the summer is Vanda falcata. This is a cool growing orchid from Japan with very fragrant flowers.

We grow our plants in Cool Asia in baskets where we keep them wet in the summer and damp in the winter. For us the species flowers from July until September and we have several clones with variable flower size and colour. Most are pure white (two clones above) but we have on plant with pink parts to the stems and backs of flowers (below).

This species has been grown in Japan for a very long time. Vanda falcata is locally called Fūki-ran or ‘orchid of the rich and noble people’ because in Japan 400 years ago, only the rich and noble could afford to own the orchid. They were so prized that they would be covered with a gold or silver net to protect them and to admire the plant, people had to cover their mouths so they would not breathe on it.

The long spur holds the nectar and the flowers are pollinated by moths. With the flowers so fragrant we encourage students not only to breath on the plants but to have a good old sniff.


Pleurothallis sarracenia – 365 days of orchids – day 926

This is a small growing species from the Mata Atlantica, Brazil with 1cm long leaves that hug the bark it grows on and unusual dark purple flowers with just a tiny opening for the pollinating ant to enter the flower.

Until this year we have always grown it in a shady spot in our Cool Americas section but we moved the plant shown to Cool Asia about twelve months ago and it has really flourished in a dryer cooler brighter spot. We tried this to reflect the xerophytic look of the stiff thick leaves suggesting it is evolved for a dryer and brighter spot than most of the plants of its genus.

We haven’t yet identified what the ants find attractive about the flower and have never seen a British ant visiting flowers so perhaps the reward is specific to the local Brazilian ants.