Cymbidium sanderae – 365 days of orchids – day 815

We are delighted to see this seedling flowering for the first time. The seed is from our original plant, that we have since lost, and it has taken eight years from pollinating the parent to seeing this seedling flowering. It brings the Cymbidium species featured on 365 days of orchids up to 17 species which represents about 1/3 of the genus.

Cymbidium sanderae is a rare plant and restricted to a small area in Vietnam where it grows as an epiphyte between 1400 and 1500m in evergreen forest. It is closely related to Cymbidium insigne which has similar flowers but a different growth habit (more of that later in the week) and is therefore likely to be a deceit pollinator, like Cymbidium insigne, and attracts bees by mimicking a local species of Rhododendron.

We don’t mind being fooled by this species and it is a joy to have it flowering in our collection again. We are also pleased to have a good number of Cymbidium species seedlings growing in-vitro, as we always feel that more should be available for growers.


Cymbidium lowianum ‘concolor’ – 365 days of orchids – day 814

Yesterday was the spring equinox and the greenhouse is now full of spring flowering orchids including this magnificent Cymbidium species. I think this will have to be Cymbidium week on 365 days as we have lots of species in flower and it is nice to showcase some of our iconic Himalayan species.

Cymbidium lowianum is native to Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and China where it grows as an epiphyte in cool montane forest. Cymbidium lowianum grows into a very large plant and has lovely large pseudobulbs, long thick leaves and very long arching flower spikes that naturally grow out to the side of the plant. We are keen to show off the natural grace of these flower spikes and so do not stake them – though that does have issues for space.

Any large growing orchid species has had to evolve a way of presenting flowers for pollinators clear of the leaves and Cymbidium lowianum has achieved this by growing its spikes out down into what will always be a space if you grow up a tree.

The variety here is concolor which like alba varieties in many orchids has no red pigment in the flowers. The more usual form (below) shows how the red pigment dominates on the lip but also gives stripes on the sepals and petals. Both varieties are lovely but the clear greens and yellow flowers on lowianum concolor are especially arresting.

We grow Cymbidium lowianum with our other Cymbidiums in our Temperate section (minimum 6C)


Epidendrum nanum – 365 days of orchids – day 813

Our miniature orchid theme continues with the smallest Epidendrum species we grow. The whole plant here is 3cm across and the tiny growths finish in two or three flowers about 8mm across which flower successively over quite a long period.

Epidendrum nanum (meaning the tiny epidendrum)has been reported from wet forests in Peru and Bolivia from 600-2300m and we find that the species prefers a cool spot in heavy shade in our Cool Americas Section.

Like most of our mini-miniatures we grow this species mounted to really enjoy the whole plant in growth and because we find little plants do best on mounts and away from competition.

This is another new species for 365 days and it is a delight for us that we can share such wonderful diversity from our greenhouses and this extraordinary plant family.


Botanical science

It was all action at lunch time today with Orchid Project refreshing thier knowledge of orchid botany starting with the parts of an orchid flower.

Here is a dissected Cymbidium erythraeum. Can correctly identify the petals, sepals, lip column and pollinia? (Thanks to Emily)

As well as being great fun this work is all part of our preparation for working with partner schools in Rwanda and Sarawak later in the year.

Tomorrow, students will be identifying the flower parts across our diverse species.


Platystele misasiana – 365 days of orchids – day 812

We have featured several miniature orchids in the last week and here is a really spectacular little species. The plant shown has now completely filled its 8cm basket and produces a multitude of little starry flowers about 2mm across from the bright green 2cm leaves.

This tiny miniature is native to cloud forests in Colombia at around 2000m and enjoys a shady spot with heavy watering throughout the year. The flowers are amazingly long lasting and we expect this plant to still be in full flower in two months time.

We grow plants successfully in pots and baskets and expect they would do well mounted to. Plants bulk up quickly so all in all a lovely little species to grow.

A year ago the plant shown looked like this (photo below) showing just how quickly the species can grow when really happy.

We have seen several Platystele species in their natural habitats and most have been tiny miniatures but all have had charming starry flowers. The smallest species of orchid we have found on any of our trips was this Platystele compacta in Costa Rica. The whole plant is less than 2cm across.


Platystele compacta in Costa Rica