As the term comes towards its end I have decided that Day 2000 will make a fitting end to 365 days of orchids so we are on the count down with nine more after today. For Day 1991 we have our dendrobium with the longest pseudobulbs.
Dendrobium fairchildiae is native to the Philippines and one of the stars the Warm Asia section of our greenhouses. The long pseudobulbs become pendulous and deciduous before flowering over a period of several years. This display is even better when the plant musters several flowerings during the year.
The flowers are produced simultaneously on old bulbs aged from around two to five years old and form clusters near the end of the bulbs. The flowers are large (5cm across) and attractively splashed in pink. This week we have a record equalling six pseudobulbs flowering together.
The species is reported as growing on exposed rocks above 1200m but we find it does best in a basket hung high in Warm Asia so that the long pseudobulbs can hang freely. Its basket is a mushroom tray and it enjoys lots of water throughout the year.
This phalaenopsis means a lot to us as Phalaenopsis bellina is Sarawak’s state flower. We have several clones including the one above which is just in flower in the greenmhouse (min 20C) and the one bellow that grows indoors.
As usual for this time of year the indoor plant is filling my dining room with its strong rose fragrance. (yes it is unmistakably smells of sweet roses). As a plant that enjoys deep shade and warm temperatures it is well suited to indoor culture. It is on shelf facing bifold doors with an to the garden facing East.
This phalaenopsis species is found across Borneo and it grows it hot lowland forest in swamps or near rivers. Plants grow low in trees where it is often in deep shade. The species grows very attractive large undulating leaves and flower spikes that produce large fragrant flowers successively over a long period so the plant will be in flower now until late in the autumn.
Phalaenopsis bellina in Sarawak
The current warm weather is bringing out the scents from all our orchids (scents are volatile chemicals that evaporate and so spread through the air much more effectively in warm air) whether those scents are lovely – like last weekend’s Prosthechea radiata or putrid like the scent of Masdevallia picea.
This species is loved by the orchid project students for its foul smell.
Masdevallia picea is native to cloud forests in Peru at around 2700m altitude where its large deep red flowers attract fly pollinators assisted by the scent of rotting stuff – it reminds me of vomit, and not in a good way! Despite the smell it is a really intriguing orchid, and one I would not be without. As well as bing large and attractive, the flowers are waxy and long lasting – and of course a real talking point when we have visitors.
This orchid species is the wonderfully fragrant and spectacular Prosthechea radiata (named for the red radial lines on the lip)
We have seen Prosthechea radiata growing abundantly in the hot lowland forests of Guatemala and Belize and the best place we have found to see it in the wild is the Ancient Mayan city of Tikal. Here it is easy to spot the species from the tops of the excavated Mayan Pyramids.
The photograph here shows one of the large plants (in bud) near this pyramid which makes the climb up the wooden steps well worth it.
The orchids in this forest are dominated by large specimens which indicates that the dryish conditions do not suit the establishment of seedlings except on particularly wet years.
The species makes great specimens in cultivation too and we have had plants bigger than the Tikal specimen. The plant featured today is well on the way with six spikes growing in a 15cm basket.
The species also flowers quickly from seed (in about 4-5 years)
We grow plants in Warm Americas where they are watered most days as baskets dry out quickly. It is interesting that for it to flourish in cultivation we grow this plant much wetter than it grows in its natural habitat. A key reason for this is very extensive root system epiphytes can develop in habitat where roots can run for several metres from a specimen plant. In cultivation deteriorating compost tend to reduce the number of years roots survive for and so the fewer roots are able to collect less water in cultivation.
Several plants make a lovely show this week.
As the hot weather continues we can celebrate this lovely warm growing species from Mexico and Central America. This is one species that always attracts attention from visitors with its large delicate butterfly pollinated flowers.
This species is found in the wild in Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador in dryish oak forest from 1200m to about 2000m. We grow it with a minimum temperature of 15 degrees C mounted on a cork slab in our Warm Americas section.
The natural habitat indicates it could be grown cool (down to about 12 degrees) but our plants seem to appreciate the heat. It flowers in the early summer as the first of our Barkeria speices each year.
We have tried growing the species in pots but we the roots have always suffered from rots and the plants have struggled as a result. On cork bark mounts the roots are wonderful and last for years, so we will always grow plants mounted.