We have some true monster orchids at Writhlington and arguably the biggest is Laelia superbiens with bulbs and leaves up a metre tall topped with 2-3m flower spikes with giant heads of fantastic flowers. Our mature plants are several feet across but we have some divisions and we are offering this one for sale to anyone with courage and space.
For anyone who wants something similar but manageable as a house plant we are also offering a lovely compact form of Laelia anceps (below) with strongly growing divisions from another of our specimen plants.
We also have two plants of the most flambouyant of Prosthecheas – Prosthechea brassavolae. Again this is a large species (my hand for scale) and makes a wonderful specimen. Plants are in large baskets and in bud.
Today we have a small growing species that reminds us of our time in the wonderful rainforests of Rwanda.
Polystachya is a common genus amongst African orchids and we have seen species in South African woodland as well as Rwanda. As its name suggests, Polystachya vulcanica comes from the volcanic mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and Zaire (it doesn’t come from Vulcan!)
It lives in 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. Each flower stems produce several flowers over the summer months.
Let me take this opportunity to wish our friends in Africa all the best during our shared times of challenge.
We have tiny orchid species no bigger than your thumb nail and then we have monsters like today’s spectacular species from Central America and Mexico.
Today’s post is for Issy who looks after Sobralias and has not missed their flowering since year 7.
Sobralia macrantha is found from Mexico to Costa Rica where it grows as a terrestrial in leaf litter, and its massive flowers are matched by the plant with thin canes that grow to a height of around 1.5m with alternate dark green tough leaves. The terminal flowers open successively over a period of several weeks. The flowers are fragrant but only last two to three days.
The lip of flowers have a charming creased look from being all folded up in the bud but when fully open the flowers a about 20cm across and 25cm from top to bottom.
We grow our plants in pots of bark and moss to replicate the natural habitat in Central America and keep plants watered all year in our Warm Americas section where plants get a minimum if 15C and bright light.
The plant currently has three of its enormous flower in bloom. Issy calls Sobralia Macrantha, Samantha (obviously), and I can confirm that Samantha is missing you too Issy.
Today we have another orchid we have had the pleasure of finding in its habitat.
This wonderful Brazilian species produces masses of 2cm wide creamy yellow flowers. If you look closely at the flowers you see that they have three long thin sepals, all with slightly hairy edges, two tiny petals with red tips and a tiny yellow lip.
We have seen the species flowering in Brazil where we found it growing abundantly of mountain ridges at around 1200m in cloud forest.
This photograph of the species near Macae de Cima shows a plant growing in the trunk of a tree in moist forest with a fair amount of moss on most trees and additional humidity coming from the large amount of bromeliads present in the habitat. The photo shows old spikes as well as new and the habit of flowering for many years from the same leaf axil explains the dramatic flowering display give by mature plants like our one in the school greenhouse.
Cool Americas gives a close match with the native habitat – cool (min 12C) , moist, and shaded. We find the species does very well mounted and you can see that our plant has become a real specimen.
As regulars will know, it is the fantastic diversity of orchids that we love rather than any one species of genus. We are trying to offer this diversity at our shop and today we have:
Our first Dendrobium – Dendrobium aphyllum – a species we have seen in Sikkim
Our first Platystele species – Platystele consorbrina with delightful miniature flowers.
Our third Stelis species – Stelis polyantha that produces more flowers than any other species in our collection.
And two restrepia species – Restrepis striata and Restrepia trichoglossa.