Pleurothallis ruscifolia is a medium sized plant that produces clusters of small yellow flowers several times during the year.
This is an orchid we found growing abundantly in cool wet forest in Costa Rica on the Poas volcano at an altitude of around 1400m. The photo below was taken in Costa Rica by one of the students on our 2005 expedition and shows how the flowers shine out when caught in a shaft of sunlight breaking through the lush canopy above.
Most of the plants we saw were growing on the trunks or lower branches of large evergreen trees and so spent much of their time in deep shade. We visited Costa Rica in July and found that on Poas it rained heavily every day. The rain usually arrived at about 12.30 and continued until about 4pm. We grow the species mounted and in pots in Cool Americas and keep it watered all year to reflect the climate it has evolved for.
The Genus Bulbophyllum includes plants with a very wide range of growth and flowering habits. One of the more unusual is Bulbophyllum clandestinum and when we first saw this plant in the wild in Laos it took us a while to be sure it was an orchid species. It grows along a long pendulous rhizome and appears to produse thick alternate leaves along this rhizome like many non orchid climbing epiphytes. The clue to it being an orchid when not in flower are the tiny pseudobulbs at the base of each leaf and the distinct orchid roots that wind their way along the rhizome. Fortunately in Laos we found evidence of flowers too and although these are small they clearly belong to an orchid.
This Bulbophyllum is found across South East Asia and Malaysia and produces tiny yellow flowers along its rhizome between the pseudobulbs.
In Laos the plants were growing in low light at 1000m altitude and so we grow the plant mounted but hanging low and shaded in our Warm Asia section. Why not add an orchid with an unusual growth habit to your collection this year?
Regular followers of 365 days of orchids will have noticed an improvement in photograph quality since we started in January 2017. The team in charge of photography includes Joe, Ben, Ed, Otto and Ed and they have developed their skills over the past 13 months. Most photographs are taken with digital SLR or Bridge cameras although phones and i-pads with macro and microscope lenses are often used for very small flowers.
As you can see in the photo Joe is using a tripod and our black cloth photo area to take the picture for todays post – Pleurothallis truncata.
Small flowers can have a really big impact and this is certainly the case with Pleurothallis trucata. Each spring plants produce chains of remarkable little globular flowers on top of leaves and for about eight weeks there is a real show in Cool Americas.
The species is endemic to Ecuador where it grows from 1700m-3000m altutide in cool wet forest. We find the species thrives mounted, in pots and in baskets but if allowed to become too dry produced lots of little plants on the leaves (keikis) rather than flowers.
The species has the delightful habit of flowering when really small (under 10cm high) but over time becomes quite large and the plant shown here is 40cm across. The photograph below shows Amalia who is in charge of Pleurothallis in our own cloud forest – Cool Americas – with one of her Pleurothallis truncata plants.
Paphiopedilum species are dramatic and beautiful orchids but unfortunately they are being driven to extinction by a range of threats. In common with most Paphiopedilum species P. appletonianum is a terrestrial and grows in leaf litter and amongst boulders in warm forests from 300-1200m. According to its IUCN Red List Entry it has been found across South East Asia and in Southern China but has been stripped from many its former sites and ‘the population trend is decreasing due to many threats including ruthless collection for regional and international trade, exploitation for horticultural purposes, logging, habitat degradation and human disturbance.‘
The species like other members of the genus are easy to raise from seed in-vitro and wild collection is unjustified. However we have seen hundreds of illegal wild Paphiopedilum plants for sale in Laos and India. These illegal plants do find their way into Europe and so it is really important that people only but seed raised plants, and support conservation initiatives for the plants they love.
We have had our seed raised plants since 1998 and love this species’ leaves as much as its flowers. It enjoys deep shade in our Warm Asia section where we keep it watered throughout the year.
The pouch of Paphiopedilum orchids acts as a temporary trap for pollinating insects that can only escape by pushing their way past the stigmatic surface and then the sticky pollen so pollinating the second flower they visit.
One mystery with this species is the very long flower stem. Perhaps its pollinating insect never flies near the ground!