Our plants have coped with Mondays hot weather – here in Radstock the highest temperature recorded on our weather station was 34.7C and the greenhouse temperatures hit 39C Some of our plants positively enjoy the warm weather and one of them is Phalaenopsis pulcherrima. This species, long known as Doritis pulcherrima, is unusual in so far as it is a terrestrial species (found on rocks and sandy places) which explains the very upright flower spike and rather upward facing flowers.
Phalaenopsis pulcherrima is found across a very wide range from the Himalayas in Sikkim, right through South East Asia, Borneo and Sumatra. Throughout its range it is restricted to hot lowland forests, often in bright light making the species more tolerant of bright light in cultivation, where the leaves will turn reddish purple. In its Himalayan range the species experiences a long dry season but plants seem to enjoy watering throughout the year in cultivation (or in its Borneo habitats where the dry seasons are short)
The plant here is the coerulea variety with beautiful blue/purple flowers although the more common bright pink variety is also stunning.
The species has been extensively used in breeding where it gives very bright pink flowers, upright stems and a tendency not to re-flower on old flower spikes. With Phalaenopsis pulcherrima you get your flowers all in one go and we can’t wait for the rest of this spike to open.
I have been asked how we are keeping our plants cool in this extreme heat. Our policy is to water plants morning and evening. with lots of water at the roots they can cool down by transpiration. We dont damp down as high humidity in the day reduces plants ability to transpire and just makes for slippery floors. Any particularly vulnerable plants are dropped to floor level where it is coolest.
Back to Prosthechea brassavolae. This wonderful orchid flowers every July and transports me to the mountains of Costa Rica and the 2005 school expedition to the forests of Poas Volcano.
Prosthechea brassavolae is an impressive species, and one of our real favourites, with 40cm bulbs topped with two 50cm leaves, and the 80cm flower spike carries up to 30 large flowers.
We found Prosthechea brassavolae to be the most common large flowered orchid in the Bosque de Paz reserve in central Costa Rica. The habitat is wet evergreen forest at 1400m with lush epiphytic growth of ferns, bromeliads and orchids (our photo of the reserve below) on large evergreen trees. Prosthechea brassavolae grew mainly on the lower branches of the large trees competing with the other epiphytes and holding its flowers clear of the foliage to attract its pollinator.
The species is fragrant at night and probably pollinated by moths. In 2005, two A level science students tried to camp out at night by one of the flowering plants of Prosthechea brassavolae to try and photograph the moth in question. However the rain forest can be a bit spooky at night, and in Costa Rica is full of the sounds of exotic animals so the sixth formers lasted less than an hour before returning to the comfort of a hammock at the lodge. Perhaps we will have another try sometime.
This little miniature from Central America hasn’t features in 365 days since 2019.
Meiracillium trinasutum is a small growing member of the Cattleya family and the name means three nosed Meiracyllium which we rather like.
The species is native to Mexico and Central America where it grows on trees and rock at around 1000m. Its habit is to cling tight to its mount and so we would definitely grow it mounted rather than potted and having tried it in a number of sections finds it does best in our Warm Americas section in good light, lots of air movement and spraying daily.
The Summer and Autumn are our peak seasons for flowers on our dendrochilums. While most orchids flower from mature growths there are some like dendrochilums that flower with the new growths in our warm Asia section we have dendrochilum spikes showing on many species.
Dendrochilum abbreviatum has very large (for a dendrochilum) flowers and beautiful green and yellow coloration, making this a very striking orchid. The name Dendrocilum abbreviatum means ‘The short dendrochilum’ and I guess that this may refer to the relatively short inflorescence compared to similar species. The species is endemic to Java and is reported (in the excellent book ‘Orchids of Java’ by J.B.Comber) to be found growing as an epiphyte in primary forest from 700-2000m. We grow the species in shade in our Warm Asia section (min 17C) which approximates well to the natural environment, and we keep all our dendrochilums well watered throughout the year, and especially wet when in active growth each summer.