WSBEorchids

Life after the Orchid Project

Hello everyone its Heather. Its been a long time since I’ve left Writhlington School and blogged last. This is a little update of what I’ve been up to after leaving the Orchid Project.

After I finished A levels I took a gap year where I spent 5 months in Rwanda, which was all documented on this blog which is where I left you last. Since then I have started at the University of Chester studying Conservation Biology I am finding everything very fascinating and enjoying expanding my knowledge beyond orchids. Even though I have moved away to university my passion for traveling hasnt gone. This summer I spent 6 weeks in Malawi of which 4 weeks were spent volunteering on a Carnivore research project in Kasungu National Park working mostly with leopards and hyenas. I was able to get involved in current research about human-wildlife conflict and learn key tracking and identification skills as unlike orchids, carnivores don’t stay in the same place. After my time in Kasungu National park, I spent 2 weeks traveling Malawi and visited Lake Malawi and kayaked to see the amazing cichlids.

I am about to start my second year at Chester and cannot wait for what traveling opportunities it brings.

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365 days of orchids – day 267 – Restrepia antenifera ‘gigantea’

This is our largest growing Restrepia species and it carries flowers with a 3cm long synsepal. Restrepia antenifera is the type species for the genus and is found in cool forests, usually on trunks, from 1600 to 3500m altitude in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.

We find the species does well in pots, baskets or mounted but can get a little straggly as it grows new plants (keikis) on top of its leaves. This does however make propagation easy.

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365 days of orchids – day 266 – Platystele misera

Misera means insignificant which seems very harsh on this pretty miniature species found in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. (Perhaps the English botanist John Lindley was having a bad day when he named it!)

This is the second Platystele to feature in 365 days (see Platystele misasiana Day 85) and this one has 1mm flowers that bloom successively on spikes over a long period. This means that plants are surrounded by a little cloud of flowers for most of the year.

The flowers are well worth a close look with a magnifying glass especially the contrasting salmon red lip. As with most of our miniatures from the cloud forests of South America this species thrives mounted and well watered in Cool Americas.

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365 days of orchids – day 265 – Lepanthopsis prolifera

Just 100 days to go! This tiny flowered species which is endemic to North Eastern Colombia arrived in the school greenhouses as a ‘weed’ on Pleurothallis sclerophylla and has since expanded into a ball and produced many offspring.

The flowers are produced in sprays on a 1cm spike and usually line up back to back so that flowers look two ways. The plant is in flower for much of the year but I am sorry to say we often forget it because the flowers are so small.

From our experience this miniature is easy to grow mounted when kept cool and wet.

(You may have noticed that we have skipped from day 263 to day 265 – this is a correction from posting two day 82s)

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365 days of orchids – day 263 – Epidendrum radicans

Another orchid species that is always in flower in the greenhouse is Epidendrum radicans. This is a very unruly plant that grows long canes up to 2m long with terminal flower spikes that continue to produce flowers for more than a year.

We have seen the species growing in Costa Rica in wet secondary forest at around 1400m altitude where the plant starts life at or near the ground and then scrambles up through the scrub. It has an interesting habit of developing twisting flower spikes that cling onto surrounding plants both in the wild and in cultivation. The flower spike shown here is well away from the pot it was once in and provides an unexpected and welcome burst of colour amongst neighbouring plants.

The species is butterfly pollinated.

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