Life after the project Part 2

Hello its Heather, its been another year since my last update. I am just about to start my third year at Chester University studying Conservation Biology and still enjoying travelling.

During my second year I spent 11 days in Grenada collecting data for my dissertation on Oeceoclades maculata. I was collecting data on their distribution and abundance trying to find out how they can thrive in so many locations.

During my summer this year I spent 2 months in South Africa with GVI doing a wildlife conservation internship. I spent my 2 months helping collect data on the Big 5 species along with cheetahs. On the internship I learnt lots about track and sign, bird identification and camera traps for hyeana research. During the 2 months I managed to put my university course to good practice by helping create some GIS maps for the reserve and getting hands on experience with research collection and reserve management.

On all my trips I have always struggled to identify orchids that are not in tropical rain forest however this trip I managed to spot many Ansellia africana including this one below with many seed pods.


365 days of orchids – day 621 – Masdevallia calura

We have lots of small plants of this lovely Masdevallia coming into flower this week. The species is endemic to Costa Rica where we have seen it growing and flowering on remnant trees at 1400m (from memory) on a misty volcanic ridge.

The photo taken back in 2003 shows the species growing in thick moss on the trunk of a large tree with abundant other epiphytes.

…and to give an ide of the habitat here is botanist Franco Pupulin up the tree getting a closer look.

The species is recorded from 200-2000m altitude and so is unlikely to be fussy about temperature but we grow the species cool (min 12C) and well watered all year reflecting the habitat in which we observed plants.

The species is one of the smaller growing masdevallias with leaves around 6-8cm and flowers clear of the leaves on repeat flowering spikes. Remember not to cut the old spikes until they are completely dead – we have had at least five flowers over a long period from some spikes.

We find the species thrives mounted or in a pot.


Highlights from the Science symposium at the British Orchid Show and Congress

We are delighted that Roberta Gargiulo will be speaking at the Science Symposium on Saturday 3rd November on ‘The lady’s slipper orchid, Cypripedium calceolus: genetic diversity over space and time.’

At Writhlington we have had the pleasure on working with Roberta at Kew for several years where she has hosted groups of A level students and and given an inspirational introduction to her work in conservation genetics. Students have then applied her techniques in their own experiments, gone on to do well at A levels, and start their own careers in science.

The audience will be in for a treat.

Cypripedium calceolus

The Congress runs from Friday 2nd November to Sunday 4th November and features orchid displays and sales from across Europe as well as a separate public lecture programme, a hardy orchid day on Sunday 4th November, tours of the Writhlington School Orchid Project facilities, refreshments and other activities.

Registrants for the Science and Conservation Symposium will have free entry to the British Orchid Congress and Show throughout Saturday 3rd November.

Registration for the Science and Conservation Symposium costs £10, Registration for the full three day congress (including the symposium and many other events) costs £35 single and £55 joint. Further details and an online registration forms can be found at

 Science and conservation symposium details


365 days of orchids – day 620 – Pleurothallis loranthophylla

Regulars to 365 days of orchids will know that we have a large collection of pleurothallis species many of which give a dramatic display of small flowers. Pleurothallis loranthophylla is one of the most rewarding and produces really pretty flowers in long pendulous spikes and a profusion of flowers.

Pleurothallis loranthophylla is native to wet forests from sea level right up to 2100m and is found from Costa Rica through to South America and as far south as Peru. It produces more roots than many of our Pleurothallis species making it more tolerant of heat and dry periods than many and one of the species that didn’t mind our hot spell early in the summer.

The flowers are produced from a dry sheath that forms in the axel of the new leaf but be patient as plants will sit ready to flower for months and then produce a mass of flower when conditions are just right which is usually from September to November. Individual flowers are about 1cm across and they contrast well with the bright green leaves.

We grow plants successfully in baskets, mounted and in pots – a fantastic species.



365 days of orchids – day 619 – Dendrobium fairchildiae

This is a very large growing Dendrobium native to the Philippines and one of the stars of the Greenhouse in September. The species grows pendulous pseudobulbs more than 2m long that become deciduous before flowering over a period of several years.

The flowers are produced simultaneously on old bulbs aged from around two to five years old and form clusters near the end of the bulbs. The flowers are large (5cm across) and attractively splashed in pink.

The species is reported as growing on exposed rocks above 1200m but we find it does best in a basket hung high in Warm Asia so that the long pseudobulbs can hang freely (see below). As you can see there are no flowers on the actively growing bulbs that still have leaves. The close up is of the group of pink flowers in the bottom right of the photo.