Aerangis brachycarpa – 365 days of orchids – day 1065


I mentioned last Thursday that we have lots of Aerangis in flower at the moment and here is one of them. This stunning species is native to East Africa from Ethiopia through Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and south to Zambia and Angola. It is found in highland forests (1500-2300m) in deep shade on tree trunks.

The plants are quite stout for Aerangis and this plant that we de-flasked in 2005 has taken fourteen years to reach its current size but now flowers regularly with multiple long elegant spikes.

We find that Aerangis species are particularly easy from seed especially the potentially tricky de-flasking stage. Fortunately, lots of the species are much quicker flowering from flask than Aerangis brachycarpa and we will feature one of them (Aerangis biloba) later in the week.

 Aerangis seedling in our lab.


Cattleya cernua – 365 days of orchids – day 1064

We are always keen to link our orchids to their pollinators and so the habitats they come from. This species is a classic humming bird pollinated flower from Brazil with its scarlet flowers and tubular lip.

This is a Brazilian miniature species, with 4cm long leaves and 3cm bulbs, until recently known as Sophronitis cernua. It is native to South Eastern Brazil where it is found as an epiphyte in warm woodland close to the beach or further inland. We find that it does best when mounted on cork and completely free of moss so that it dries out completely between waterings. We grow plants in Warm Americas (min 15C) in good light where we spray it daily.

The plants shown here were split three years ago and they have produced extensive root systems well suited to a dry habitat. The flowers are quite small at 25mm across but a mature plant is covered in flowers and really gives a good display.


Masdevallia tonduzii – 365 days of orchids – day 1063

 This year

 Last year

Masdevallia tonduzii is a small growing Masdevallia with very large flowers . The plant shown here is in a 3cm pot and so the leaves are 5cm long and the flowers 12cm across including the tails. The species is native to Costa Rica and Panama where it grows in forests from 400-1400m altitude making this a bit warmer growing than most of our cloud forest Masdevallia species.

The inside of the flower is hairy adding further to the the brilliance of this little species .

The species is named after Adolphe Tonduz a Swiss naturalist who was invited to Costa Rica as part of a drive for education and science in the country in the 1880s. He contributed greatly to knowledge of the amazing plant diversity of Costa Rica between 1889 and 1920 but sadly died an alcoholic aged 59. If you would like to know more about his life and work there is a great article about him.

In horticulture one is always learning and we grew this species for many years in our Cool Americas section with the rest of the Masdevallias. We noticed that that the plant failed to increase in size and noting the low altitude it can be found at in the wild tried growing it warmer. It now spends all year in our Warm Americas section and has responded by growing more leaves than ever before and a record six flowers (the previous best was two.

This little orchid will also remind us of the importance of moderation with mulled wine at Orchid Christmas. (14th December 10am-4pm if you had forgotten)


Aerangis verdickii – 365 days of orchids – day 1062

It is Aerangis week in the greenhouse with several species in flower. Aerangis verdickii is one of our most significant species as we are working with FAWE School Rwanda on student experiments to reintroduce the species to trees in Kigali.

This Aerangis species is found right across central and east Africa where it grows in woodland and copes with seasonal dry periods by storing water in its thick roots which form an extensive root system over time. It has grey green, waxy leaves also evolved to reduce water loss. The large waxy flowers have 16cm spurs.

We have seen the species in Rwanda showing how it copes with a dry climate (see photo below) on a tree in the capital Kigali.

We do have a large number of seedlings of this species in out laboratory and as well as sharing these with our partners in Rwanda for their school experiments next year.

We grow the species in Warm Asia hanging in the roof where it receives good light, high temperatures and dries quickly after watering.



Guarianthe bowringiana (Cattleya bowringiana) – 365 days of orchids – day 1061

We have another ‘Cattleya’ today to go with yesterday’s Cattleya pumila. This species is native to Central America and has been reclassified as Guarianthe as its phylogeny separates it from the cattleyas of South America.  We have several plants of this species, most are pink and one (the coerulea variety) is purply blue. Coerulea is being time lapse filmed in Bristol for a nature series, and so we only have the pink clones in the greenhouse this week.

Guarianthe bowringiana is native to Guatemala and Belize in Central America. It is usually found in dryish lowland forest and was seen by students on our trip to Guatemala near Yaxha at 300m altitude (see photo below). Plants come into flower during autumn and winter and produce long spikes with many flowers from the robust pseudobulbs.

We find the species enjoys a basket of well draining compost but heavy water when in active growth during the summer. We hang plants higher (and so drier) in the roof of its Warm Americas Section for flowering and over the winter months until growth starts again in the spring.