Bulbophyllum auricomum – 365 days of orchids – day 1927

Orchids can be spectacular in different ways. Bulbophyllum auricomum is the national flower of Myanmar and features in traditional songs and literature as well as in buddhist traditions. Its name refers to its golden lip and as the plants grow high in the tree tops the flowers represent purity.

We first came across the species when asked to grow it from seed by a local Buddhist centre where they grew the species in the traditional way on coir matting. We found that the species is easy from seed in-vitro and can even flower in jars.

The species comes from seasonally dry lowland forests and drops its twin leaves in the winter. We find that it needs a dry bright winter (we put our plants up high out of the reach of most of our waterings) or it doesn’t flower and is liable to rot, but the particular requirements of the species are worth the effort for these lovely fragrant flowers. During the summer we water heavily to encourage large bulbs for good flowering and the species spends all year in our Warm Asia section high




Encyclia bractescens – 365 days of orchids – day 1926

A treat every May is this delicate orchid always flowers during May and June in the greenhouse although we found it flowering in July on our expedition to Belize.

The species comes from Central America and we have seen it a few miles inland from Belize city. Encyclias are Laelineae and so related to Cattleyas and Laelias that tend to have tall pseudobulbs and thick stiff leaves. Encyclia bractescens is something of an exception with thin grass like leaves and small pseudobulbs. The long lasting flowers are large for the size of plant and although it seems slow to multiply up to being a specimen it is a rewarding plant to grow.

In Belize we found it growing as an epiphyte in regrowth forest in one of the villages that form the Community Baboon Sanctuary which is actually a sanctuary set up more that 25 years ago with WWF support that set up skeleton forest in a group of villages in Belize. Skeleton forest is continuous forest shared with villagers who all keep 50 yeard of forest at the edge of their land. Although called a Baboon reserve it is aimed at protecting Black Howler Monkeys which we have met and enjoyed watching (and hearing) in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Belize.

We saw Black Howler Monkeys in the reserve (see below) and lots of Orchids too. If you protect habitat for one species than all the biodiversity benefits.

One of the orchids was our Encyclia bractescens growing as an epiphyte on the truck of a small tree in fairly open forest and dappled shade (shown nicely on our photograph). The altitude was around 100m above sea level.

 Flowering in Belize.

We grow this species in Warm Americas in a basket to give good drainage though we water well during the summer (wet season in Belize).




Stelis brunnea- 365 days of orchids – day 1925

Stelis brunnea is an orchid that produces a mass of small creamy white flowers at this time of year. In total we have twenty five Stelis species at school and lots of them produce a great display to show just how rewarding these small flowered species from South and Central America are.

This species comes from cloud forests in Ecuador and its delicate white flowers open and close with the humidity in the greenhouse – they like it damp and close when the humidity becomes too low. In common with many stelis species, plants produce multiple flower spikes from both old and new growths. A bonus with Stelis brunnea is that the flowers are long lasting. We look forward to share some of our lovely miniature flowered orchids at the Devon Show this weekend in Budleigh Salterton – hopefully see you there.

All our Stelis species live in Cool Americas (min12C) and are kept damp all year and shaded in the summer. We find that the larger growing species like this one do particularly well in a 10cm basket where they can develop into mature specimens.


Coelogyne nitida – 365 days of orchids – day 1924

We know that May is here when our Coelogyne nitidas start to flower. This pretty, fragrant orchid is one we have seen growing abundantly in the Hiamlayas and its flowering is always a treat.

We have two distinct clones of this lovely orchid, Coelogyne nitida ‘limoniana’ (above) with a very light yellow blotch on the lip, and the more common variety with a golden yellow blotch (below)

This is a cool growing species that we have seen growing in profusion in Sikkim and in Arunachal Pradesh. In our experience it grows in evergreen and semi-evergreen forest from about 1000m up to 2500m mostly on the trunks and lower branches, often with moss and ferns, The photos below show the species flowering in late April near Tawang in north east Arunachal Pradesh.

The Cymbidium growing with the Coelogyne is Cymbidium elegans (an autumn flowering species I am sure we will feature in October)

I highly recommend a trip to Tawang although this remote part of the Himalayas can be a challenge to get to, nestled in a cool tropical valley surrounded by snow capped mountains north east of Bhutan. As you can see from the map below Sikkim is not far to the west.

In cultivation we replicate the species’ cool wet habitat and find it grows best with a minimum of 6C in our Warm Temperate zone and we water well throughout the year. This is a great species for a cool greenhouse, conservatory or a cool room in the house – I grow a lovely plant in my East facing bathroom window.



Platystele misasiana- 365 days of orchids – day 1923

In contrast to yesterday’s grand Guarianthe skinneri we have one of our favourite mini-miniature orchids today.

The plant shown is close to filling its 8cm basket and produces a multitude of little starry flowers about 2mm across from the bright green 2cm leaves. Does anyone fancy counting the flowers? There are 39 flower spikes this year and that each has on average eight flowers open and another seven in bud. An amazing thing.

The species is also gorgeous as a small dibision – here in5.5cm pots

This tiny miniature is native to cloud forests in Colombia at around 2000m and enjoys a shady spot with heavy watering throughout the year. The flowers are amazingly long lasting and we expect our plants to still be in full flower in two months time.

We grow plants successfully in pots and baskets and expect they would do well mounted to. Plants bulk up relatively quickly so all in all a lovely little species to grow and it can become a real specimen (see below from 2019).

We have seen several Platystele species in their natural habitats and most have been tiny miniatures but all have had charming starry flowers. The smallest species of orchid we have found on any of our trips was this Platystele compacta in Costa Rica. The whole plant is less than 2cm across.


Platystele compacta in Costa Rica showing the natural habitat of platystele species on mossy trunks and branches in cloud forest.