Productive meetings at The Eden Project

Yesterday was a very enjoyable and productive day working with our partners at The Eden Project. Hettie (Team leader for the tropical biome) put together a great program of meetings to help plan future collaborations, and we were also joined by Andrew Barker our partner from the Dyson Foundation.

We started the day with Hettie and Mike Maunder (Director of Life Sciences) where students James Stewart and Jess Buckle could share their ideas for the future.  We have a common passion to support education, plants and conservation in tropical Africa and I am sure that we can help each to make a difference in the future.

We also met Commercial Manager Tracy Smith and Jess presented our new orchid seedling product ‘Orchids in a Bag’. We will be selling orchid seedlings again from the Eden Shop from the autumn (More information next month from the student team working on this project)

James has been working hard to develop our RaspberryPi based remote sensing solution to data and image collection and sharing in tropical environments and after a long and productive meeting with fellow electronics enthusiast Michael Cutler (Horticultural Technical Engineer) the first trials of the system in Eden will start next term.

We finished with a working lunch with all the tropical biome team discussing Hettie’s exciting plans for new orchid hot spots. We will be hosting a visit by the team to Mendip in late September to move plans forward and for Mendip and Writhlington students to provide a day a of orchid workshops including microprop in our great facilities.

We have been working with staff at Eden since 2002 and I am delighted that, thanks to the possibilities offered by opening Mendip Studio School, our collaborations are expanding in scope and impact both at Eden and for students at both Mendip and Writhlington.



365 days of orchids – day 230 – Barbosella australis

This species is a real miniature with 5mm leaves along a creeping rhizome and relatively large flowers single produced in profusion. Barbosella australis is native to Southern Brazil (australis means ‘southern’ and doesn’t refer to Australia – the southern land) and we have seen related species in Brazil at around 1200m in primary forest where a colony can clothe the lower branches of a tree.

We find that the only way we can grow this species well is mounted on bark where it can grow where it wants and eventually surround the cork mount. We spray our plants once a day.


365 days of orchids – day 229 – Stelis polyantha

We have another delightful Stelis species flowering this week. Stelis polyantha is a small flowered species from Ecuador where it is found in cloud forest at around 3000m. The small size of the flowers is made up for in the number of flowers per spike and the number of spikes produces that give a pinky ‘cloud’ around the plant when in flower.

We grow the species mounted and low down in Cool Americas where we keep it well watered and shady all year.


365 days of orchids – day 228 – Masdevallia pachyura


This is a small multiflowered Masdevallia species found in cloud forests from 1000 to 3000m in Ecuador and Peru. As could be expected from its range it is a variable species but all have pretty little flowers and in our experience the species is straight forward in cultivation and multiplies relatively quickly.

This variety is names ‘caudas orange’ and is from the Ecuagenera nursery in Ecuador.

This seems like a good oportunty to thank the RHS who have awarded a bursary to Jacob for travelling to Ecuador in October to attend the World Orchid Congress where he will speak about the Orchid Project and also spend time at the Ecuagenera nurseries.


365 days of orchids – day 227 – Dracula amaliae

This Dracula species is native to cloud forests in Colombia at around 1800m altitude. As with most Draculas it is pollinated by fungus gnats and attracts them with a fake mushroom shaped lip. This also give the ‘Monkey Face’ look shared by a number of species.

We grow the plant in Cool Americas but find we need to give a few Dracula specific conditions for the plant to flourish. Firstly it needs to be grown in  abasket as many of the flowers grow downwards from the base of the leaves. Secondly it enjoys being very damp and heavily shaded. We find that the easy way to provide these conditions is to hand the dracula’s basket below another plant in a basket providing shade and added moisture. The final requirement is to avoid high temperatures which cause brown patches on the leaves and leaf drop. This is also helped by hanging below another plant as the dracula is at around waist height and not it the warmer air near the top of the greenhouse.

This all sounds quite complicated but as you can see the plant grows very happily when it likes its spot and we have twenty flowers or buds on the plant this morning.