This small growing orchid with large scarlet flowers is definitely in our top ten. The plant above has just come back into flower and was raised from seed sown by students in our propagation laboratory in 2007 and is now quite a mature plant.
Our expeditions to Brazil in 2001 and 2006 allowed us the privilege of seeing this species flowering in the wild and I have included some photos from the 2006 school expedition bellow to give an idea of its habitat.
As the photos show, we found Cattleya coccinea growing as an epiphyte in mossy cloud forests at around 1200m altitude. Plants were mostly growing in exposed positions where they receive good light, frequent mists, good air movement and cool temperatures. During our visits temperatures were around 12C at night and 22C during the day. It was very noticeable that the forest was dripping every morning from the mists and dew.
New growths have a single leaf that becomes purple in bright sunlight and the flowers are produced from immature growths. The flowers are pollinated by humming birds and are variable in size, shape and colour. Some flowers are rounder, some more angular, and some have considerable yellow on the lip and petals.
This does not seem to be the easiest plant to grow and we find it does much better mounted than in pots as it seems to resent the compost braking down or becoming too shaded by other plants on a bench. I guess it is easier to replicate the plants natural conditions on a mount – Cool, wet, bright and windy. It is definitely worth the trouble.
Today we have one of most reliable winter flowering species that fills the greenhouse with spring cheer. Pleurothallis galeata is a medium sized plant that produces sprays of around twenty pretty little flowers from the base of every leaf. It has the advantage of flowering as a very small plant in a 3cm pot but making a majestic specimen over time.
The species grows at an altitude of around 2000-3000m in South American cloud forest and so we grow the plant in Cool Americas (Minimum 12C) The species seems to do well in pots or mounted and produces a lot of fine roots making it is an easy plant to grow. Our plant regularly produce keikis (young plants) on older leaves and so we are able to propagate the species easily. A must for any collection.
Here is a closeup of the pretty little flowers.
January is a great month in the School Greenhouse for Cymbidium species (see Cymbidium erythraeum – day 369) with great diversity in colour and form. Cymbidium iridiodes is remarkable for its large flowers with rich red stripes and spots.
This is one of our Himalayan species and one we believe we have seen in Sikkim although not in flower. Its habitat is wet evergreen monsoon forests from 1000m to 2800m altitude and we find it responds very well to being grown cool and wet in our Temperate section (minimum 6C)
The flower stems are rather thin and resulting in a semi-pendulous spike habit which is great as it keeps the flowers well clear of the leaves but does require us to spot the spikes as they emerge and raise plants (we balance them on crates) to show them off to their best.
This exquisite and sweetly scented species species from Mexico and Central America is a cool growing species found in high altitude cool mossy forests from 1200 to 2600m and so we grow plants in our Cool Americas section, shaded and watered throughout the year.
The scent is reminiscent of almonds and is very popular amongst the noses of Orchid Project students. The flowers are long lasting is they are not water damaged which is unusual for such a scented flower and a plant which is diverting valuable resources to producing fragrance oils. The flower stems are thin and flattened, and over time they become attractively arching and we avoid the widespread habit of fighting the graceful habit by enforcing vertical spikes with canes and ties.
The name Cuitlauziana pulchella reflects recent molecular studies into the Oncidium family and this species started life in the Orchid Project as Odontoglossum pulchellum and then Osmoglossum pulchellum before taking on its current name. Either way, ‘pulchellus’ is latin for ‘pretty’ which is a great choice for this pretty little orchid.