Pleurothallis lynniana – 365 days of orchids – day 999

We have reached day 999 in our daily flowering orchid and this evening is Open Evening at Writhlington, so it is brilliant to have so many dramatic orchids in flower.

Our plant of Pleurothallis lynniana is becoming quite a specimen and the wonderfully droopy looking leaves now surround its cork mount. Their is something very reminiscent of the posture of a vulture in this species – don’t you think.

Pleurothallis lynniana is endemic to Ecuador and we find it grows well in deep shade on a north facing wall in our Cool Americas section. We grow the species mounted which suits its growth habit which is horizontal to pendulous.

Flowers form from the leaf axils and leaves bloom successively over a very long period and are large for the plant as well as being a great colour with dark red stripes on a yellow ground colour.

The plant here has been flowering on and off since the early spring making a wonderful part of the collection.

Day 1000 tomorrow !!!!


Cymbidium dayanum (Himalayan form) – 365 days of orchids – day 998 – evolution in action?

This gorgeous Cymbidium species has been causing a real stir amongst the school students this week as it opens alongside Cymbidium angustifolium – day 992 (which is synonymous with Cymbidium dayanum or sometimes known as Cymbidium dayanum ‘red’.

Are we able to see evolution in action in this species from the Himalayas and South east Asia?

Todays variety of Cymbidium dayanum is the one found in the Himalayas, through Southern China and Japan, with striking red and white flowers on pendulous spikes. It is a native of lowland forests where it is reported growing on trunks and lower branches of large trees in shade. We know this habitat well from our trips to Sikkim, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh where lowland forests are semi-evergreen, hot and wet in the summer but much dryer and significantly cooler in the winter. We recreate these conditions, growing plants in constant shade in our Warm Asia section. We keep plants watered throughout the year but much wetter in the summer. As you can see from the photographs taken yesterday evening, plants flower profusely and the flowers are long lasting and fragrant.

Our excitement is to see this flowering next to the much smaller and rather different variant of the species from Sabah in Borneo (below)

Although the different versions of the species show clear similarities the differences seem significant to my team of growers in Warm Americas:

  1. Vegetatively the red plant is less than half the size of the striped plant which has leaves more than twice the length and twice the width.
  2. The flowers on the red plant are again around half the size of their striped relation, and most significantly the opening of the lip (lip to column height) is much smaller. This implies that the red form of Cymbidium has a different and smaller pollinator.
  3. The deep red colour of the Sabah form may also indicate a change in pollination strategy from the more common striped form. There is good evidence that many Malaysian red orchids are fly pollinated (see this interesting article) while in Japan the striped variety is reported as being pollinated exclusively by the Japanese honeybee Apis cerana japonica. Could it be that the normal bee pollinators of Cymbidium dayanum are absent from the habitat in Sabah, forcing the species to evolve into a rather different plant through natural selection. (The standard large red and white flowers are not pollinated but some smaller redder flowered plants are pollinated by flies leading to redder and redder flowers over the generations) – perhaps the net stage will be for the red flowered plants to develop an unpleasant small attractive to flies?

While sitting every lunch time and pondering the possibilities of the two varieties of Cymbidium dayanum being or becoming two separate species with different pollination strategies, we would love the opportunity to observe the species in the field and test the hypothesis we have developed.

For those who are wondering, Cymbidium dayanum does not give any reward (such as nectar) to pollinators and is reliant on deceit pollination.




Pleurothallis dentipetala – 365 days of orchids – day 997

Costa Rica is a country we have visited a couple of times, and one that has had a big impact on our project. We visited in 2005 and spent a fascinating time in the rich forests on Poas volcano where Writhlington students explored forests diversity and pollinator relationships with two groups winning places at the finals of the UK National Science and Engineering competition.

Cost Rica has a great diversity of Pleurothallis species and their allies and one we grow but have not yet featured on 365 days of orchids is this small growing species with long sprays of small but very attractive flowers. The species gets its name from the toothed edges to the petals.

The species is found in the area we explored in wet forest from 900-1500m which is a little warmer than some of the cloud forest pleurothallis species we grow making this species less fussy about warm summer temperatures as long as it is kept moist. The plant here is in a 3cm pot but we also grow the species mounted and in baskets.

Writhlington students in wet forest at 1400m altidude in Costa Rica in 2005


Latest News – A second visit to Sarawak and a Christmas Orchid Festival

We have a very exciting term ahead with our second expedition to Sarawak in October  (Oct 23rd-Nov5th) and a spectacular Christmas Orchid Festival on Saturday December 14th from 10am until 4pm with tours of the glasshouses, a range of interesting speakers, orchid trade with great offerings in time for Christmas and orchid displays too – we are aiming for a mini version of last Autumns very successful British Orchid Congress at the School. Keep an eye on for more information on both events.

 Christmas is always a spectacular time in the School Glasshouses.

 We are very much looking forward to working again with our partners in Kuching in October.


Stenoglottis fimbriata – 365 days of orchids – day 996

We know that Autumn is here when our stenoglottis species start flowewring. We have two Stenoglottis species that are very similar. The first to flower is Stenoglottis fimbriata which has long spikes of pretty pink flowers which have darker spots and a lip that ends in three long filaments.

The leaves form a basal rosette and are heavily spotted in purple as is the the flower stem and the tiny leaflets up to where the flowers start.

The species comes from Eastern South Africa where it is found growing in moss and humus on rocks, banks and fallen trees in shaded forest and bush from the coast up to 1800m.

This is a habitat we have explored around Durban where forest remnants have a distinct wet season and dry season and many plants including Clivia and sundews find a niche on moss covered rocks along with orchids.

We grow the species in our Temperate section where it flowers from September to Christmas and then loses its leaves. We then give it a dryish rest until new shoots appear in late February from which time we give steadily increasing water.

We also grow the similar Stenoglottis longifolia which is a more robust plant without the attractive spotting found on the leaves of Stenoglottis fimbriata.