365 days of orchids – day 503 – Lycaste aromatica

Our greenhouse is full of a strong spicy scent as our aptly names Lycaste aromatica has burst into flower. Twenty flowers are out already and there are another fifteen buds to open tomorrow – what a gorgeous sight.

This free flowering species is native to Mexico and Central America where it grows as an epiphyte of lithophyte in semi-deciduous forest. It uses its powerful scent to attract euglossine bees (perfume gathering bees) and in common with many plants adopting this strategy has fairly short lived flowers (a couple of weeks).

The native habitat experiences a marked dry season and so the species drops all its leaves in November and remains leafless until April or May. We reduce watering to almost none while there are no leaves but in the summer once growth is underway we water heavily to support the rapidly growing lush leaves.

It suits our temperatures in Warm Americas with a winter minimum of 15C


365 days of orchids – day 502 – Pleurothallis ruscifolia

Pleurothallis ruscifolia is a medium sized plant that produces clusters of small yellow flowers several times during the year. Our plant last flowered in January and is again smothered in flowers.

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. 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.


365 days of orchids – day 501 – Sobralia leucoxantha

This is another of our giant sobralia species. It grows thin canes about 2m long and in late spring these have large (15cm across) flowers that last about two days. This is a lot of leaves and stems for a couple of days flowers but we are really fond of the species as it has a dramatic splendour all of its own.

The species is native to Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia where it grows as a terrestrial or epiphyte. We grow it in a 90 cm diameter tree container. It is about time we split the plant up  – a major operation! and we will send bits of the plant to the Eden Project, Bristol University Botanic Garden and Bristol Aquarium so that more people can enjoy this great plant.


365 days of orchids – day 500 – Restrepia condorensis

So we have reached day 500! – We hope that you are enjoying our orchids as much as we are.

For day 500 we have a wonderful restrepia that we haven’t had a chance to blog before. Restrepia condorensis is a small growing species with long thin flowers in a startling pinky-red and a real show stopper. The species is endemic to Ecuador and grows in cool wet forests with the conditions we replicate in our Cool Americas section.

We have noticed that restrepias are getting more and more common in collections and we love them partly because they flower frequently giving a real point of interest in the greenhouse, but also because they are easy to propagate by division or from leaf cuttings (put a leaf and its stem into a pot of moss and you will usually be rewarded with a new little plant)



365 days of orchids – day 499 – Polystachya galeata

This stately orchid has the typical features of a polystachya flower; it is non-resupinate (up-side-down), has large lateral sepals that form a hood, and has flowers that open in succession on a flower spike produced from the base of the single leaf that grows on a cylindrical pseudobulb.

The flowers are really worth a close look from underneath as this reveals the beautiful combinations of cream, green and red that are hiden from above.

Like most polystachyas this species is African and is found in Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zaire and Angola. The broad distribution results in a wide range of colour forms. The species is native to hot lowland evergreen forests from 400-1000m altitude and so we grow plants in our Warm Asia section (we don’t have a Warm Africa section) in shade with a minimum of 17C.