Investigating orchid seed with a wifi microcope

Here is Ed using one of our wifi microscopes. In preparation for our forthcoming shows (Bournemouth Orchid Show and the London Orchid Show) and to help our partner schools in Rwanda and Sarawak, students are preparing information about orchid seed.

This is seed of Dendrobium thyrsiflorum photographed by Ed.

By using a 1mm scale on our microscope slide we can also measure the seeds which are very variable in size shape and colour.

This Cymbidium hookerianum seed is quite large (1.0mm long) and clearly shows the characteristic orchid seed with an embryo inside a dry seed coat. Unlike most plant seeds there is no food supply for the germinating embryo and so it needs an external food source – mycorrhizal fungi in the wild and growing media in our lab.

As you can see, the Dendrobium thyrsiflorum seed is much smaller (about 0.3mm long) but the embryos are not much smaller than the cymbidium embryos as they fill their seed coats.

We will have a full range of seed for you by the end of the week. Would anyone be interested in a 2020 Orchid Seed Calendar? it is lovely to find such beauty in tiny things we can’t usually appreciate.



Rhychostele rossii – 365 days of orchids – day 811

Yet another new species for 365 days of orchids is the delightful miniature member of the Oncidium family Rhychostele rossii.

As you can see from the photos we have two distinct clones of this species. The first has larger pinker flowers with browny-purple spots while the second produces more slightly smaller flowers and is white with orange-brown spots and stripes. Both clones are lovely and produce the characteristically large flowers (up to 8cm across) on tiny plants with a 2cm bulb topped with a single 5cm leaf.

This species is found in the cloud forests of Mexico and Central America, as far south as Nicaragua, from 2000-3000m altitude. As a result the species enjoys cool conditions and year round water. With find flowering is reliably in March and April.

We grow our plants in small baskets as we find that although plants enjoy lots of water they like good drainage too, and being miniature are at risk from being outcompeted by moss when grown in a pot.

We think that this is a species that more people would love to grow and so the two plants shown have been cross pollinated. Cross your fingers for seedlings available in about two years.



Cattleya schroderae – 365 days of orchids – day 810

This cattleya species has been likened to ‘granny’s nickers’ by some students, more attracted to miniature orchids, but I still love its enormous, dramatic, over the top flowers in soft lilac.

This large flowered orchid (measured at 24cm across) is another Colombian species, and it grows in lower montane forest. It is similar to Cattleya trianae (below) but has fewer larger flowers and different shaped pseudobulbs.

With us the species flowers reliably during March and early April and is always a big attraction especially this year with three pairs of flowers.

We grow our plant in a basket of course bark and hanging high in Warm Americas with the rest of our Cattleyas.


Dendrobium bellatulum – 365 days of orchids – day 809

New to 365 days, this is one of our favourite Dendrobium species. Dendrobium bellatulum is a small growing plant (the bulbs on this first flowering seedling are just 3cm long) with huge flowers. The lovely flower that has just opened today is just under 5cm across.

Dendrobium bellatulum is native to forests from India right across to Vietnam and is found from 700m to 2100m altitude is forests with a distinct dry season in the winter.

We don’t find this the easiest species in cultivation but have grown it successfully both cool and warm but find it only does well mounted so that it can dry out between waterings. We now grow the species high in the roof of our Warm Asia section as we found that growing it cooler resulted in too much moss developing on the mount during the wet summer period and this causing roots to rot during the winter rest. Plants flower quickly from seed but we have found that they dislike dividing.

Although a little tricky the species is well worth persevering with as the flowers are very long lasting. Come and see this plants at our forthcoming shows (Bournemouth and London) and decide for yourself.