It isn’t just Dendrobioums filling the greenhouses with flowers this week and Coelogyne pulverula has opened its first two, long (up to 100cm), pendulous, sprays of flowers in our Warm Asia section.
The species is native to Malaysia, Thailand and Borneo where it grows on the trunks and lower branches of large trees in evergreen forest from 300 to 1800m. We find that the species enjoys growing warm but well shaded and kept moist throughout the year. We find that leaves can become damaged by bright sun or by plants being allowed to become dry for long periods.
We saw a number of Coelogynes in the forests of Sarawak during our visits including Coelogyne motleyi in flower , in July, and and Coelogyne asperata (below) in October, and most were growing in shaded spots in the lower branches or on the trunks of trees where the large leaves are protected from too much intense equatorial sunshine.
The image below (Taken in the Mulu National Park), shows perfectly the natural habitat of Coelogynes such as C.pulverula.
You can also see that pendulous flower spikes are great for pollinator access as there is a good space below the plant.
The flowers do bruise quite easily and so it is worth moving a plant in spike to a safe place, like ours in the photo, for the flower spikes to grow where they won’t touch things or be knocked. There are another ten spikes in bud, so the plant will be providing a great display for weeks to come.
The school greenhgouse is dendrobium heaven this week and the latest to open, is this charming little species with compact bulbs and long sprays of large flowers.
This plant was deflasked in 2010 and produces a great display every year.
The species is found over a wide range from Assam through South East Asia and we have seen it growing in Loas near Luang Prabang near the Mekong river at around 700m growing in seasonally dry evergreen forest with the species most common in the lower branches of big semi-deciduous trees near the river and close to this Buddhist temple with a Cymbidium growing in its gutter.
Like other members of Dendobium section densiflorum (the species densiflorum, thyrsiflorum and Jenkinsii) we find the species does best with a warm wet summer in Warm Asia and then a dryish cooler winter and for Dendrobium lindleyi we find it enjoys the roof of our Cool Americas section. This plant was deflasked in 2010 and produces a great display every year.
For our 1200th orchid of the day we have another of our wow species.
Epidendrum parkinsonianum is a species we are particularly fond of, since finding it in the volcanic mountains of Costa Rica, and over the past 20 years, growing this wonderful specimen in our Cool Americas Section.
In Costa Rica we found the species in the forests clothing the Poas volcano, where it grows at around 1200m altitude, hanging on the trunks and main branches of trees near rivers. The forest here is cool and wet, and the plants growth habit means that it grown in quite deep shade.
This habitat surprised us as we had previously assumed from the thick terete leaves that it needs a dry bright environment. Moving the plant into cool shady conditions in our Cool Americas section (minimum 12C) in 2007 has resulted in much better growth and heavy flowering. We keep the plant damp throughout the year.
Interestingly we have another clone which is quite different with shorter leaves and smaller flowers. We have found that this clone prefers to grow warmer in our Warm Americas section, which is also brighter. Perhaps there are distinct populations of the species in Costa Rica evolved for slightly different climates.
Paraphalaenopsis is a genus just four species endemic to Borneo, and since this is the first time it has flowered since our recent visits to Sarawak in July and October last year, we have taken more interest in this beautiful and unusual species.
Paraphalaenopsis labukensis comes from near the Labuk river where it grows as an epiphyte from 500 to 1000m altitude. The Labuk river is in Sabah, the adjacent state to Sarawak in the north east of the island of Borneo and about 500 miles from our explorations in Mulu national park. We can therefore expect a habitat similar to several we visited, warm and wet throughout the year.
The species has variable flower colour from yellow to dark brown and on first flowering we are really pleased with the colour of our flowers. The flowers also have a twist on the petals and sepals – we think that is probably to help advertise the flowers in all directions. The leaves are long and thin, so far only 80cm long but apparently over 2m when the plant is fully mature. A basket is great to accommodate the pendulous habit and the plant is well suited to conditions in our Warm Asia section.
Terete leaves are often the sign of a species adapted to dry climates but observing terete leaved species in Sarawak we found that they were generally in more open forest (often due to limited soils) rather than dryer habitats. We have experimented with our paraphalaenopsis, and it actually seems to prefer good shade. It would be interesting to know if anyone has field observations of the species in habitat.
The name refers to the similarity between the flowers of these and Phalaenopsis but they are actually very distinct and a real point of interest.
Can any orchid species compare with the wow factor of Dendrobium thyrsiflorum. As you can see from the first two photographs we have two large plants in flower today. They are different clones and one grows longer bulbs with longer thinner racemes of flowers while the second is stouter growing. When flowering really well the species is breathtaking.
This majestic species is native to Eastern Himalayas and South East Asia. We have seen it on school expeditions to Laos growing in the tops of tall trees in evergreen and semi deciduous forest at around 1000m where it experiences warm wet summers and a dryer cooler winter.
To reflect the natural habitat we grow the species in Warm Asia during the summer but move it to cool Americas for the winter which encourages perfect flowering as you can see from the photos.
The species is the second this week from Dendrobium section densiflorum after Dendrobium chrysotoxum (see below)
Both species produce grand racemes of flowers from near the top of the few leaved bulbs although the bulbs on thyrsiflorum are longer, thinner and rounder in section. We saw both species in Laos and had no problem telling them apart when not flowering.
It is sad that orchid project students are not able to enjoy this annual spectacle as it is always a high point in the greenhouse. The dendrobiums say hello hope to see you again soon 🙂