365 days of orchids – day 139 – Polystachya vulcanica

Polystachya is a common genus amongst African orchids and this small growing species comes from the volcanic mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and Zaire (hence its lovely name – it doesn’t come from Vulcan!)

It comes from high altitude mossy forest similar to that we found on the upper slopes of Mount Bigugu in Rwanda. This is the highest point in Nyungwe national park at 3000m and the orchid is found from 1600-3000m. This habitat is very similar to South American cloud forests and so we grow the species in Cool Americas where we keep it moist and shaded all year.

Like most Polystachyas the species holds its flowers upside down (non-resupinate) and this flower is photographed from below to show the lovely colour combination. Flower spikes are produced in profusion and each produces sequential individual flowers over a period of months during the summer.

We have recently sown seed from this plant and we are hoping to have some plants available soon as well as sending seedlings to our partners in Rwanda at FAWE School and the Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management.


365 days of orchids – day 138 – Pholidota chinensis

The genus Pholidota is a close relative of Coelogyne and we have seen several species in our travels to the mountain rainforests of the Himalayas and South East Asia. Most pholidota species have small flowers buy make up for it with large numbers of flowers and some lovely scents.

Pholidota chinensis has bigger flowers than many in the genus and makes a very neat little plant with arching spikes emerging from the new growths. As its name suggests it is found in Southern China as well as Northern Vietnam. It is found in cool monsoon forest and we find it enjoys life in our Cool Asia section (minimum 10C) where we keep in damp all year with a wet summer.


365 days of orchids – day 137 – Cymbidium findlaysonianum

This is a warm growing Cymbidium species from South East Asia, Malaysia and the Philippines. It is a large robust plant with thick leaves and it produces long spikes around a metre long with many flowers. The flowers spikes are strongly pendulous which means the flowers are well clear of the leaves and a mature plant like ours with three spikes is quite a sight and well worth of Best Cymbidium in Show (see photo below)

We grow the species hanging high in Warm Asia.


365 days of orchids – day 136 – Dendrobium aphyllum


This deciduous dendrobium is another of the orchids we have seen growing in Sikkim. It is a warm growing species and grows on the same trees as Vanda ampulacea from 200m to about 900m altitude. It also grows as a lithophyte on large boulders and cliffs.

The species is very pendulous with long thin canes that grow with lush light green leaves during the very wet summer from April to September. Plants then drop all of the leaves and remain leafless until flowering. We grow the species in Warm Asia for the summer and then move it to the roof of Cool America for the winter when we avoid spraying it with water once the leaves have been dropped.

Over time the plant can form a large clump as shown by this magnificent specimen near the road to Gangtok in Sikkim.