Today we have a new species for 365 days with the first flowering of a seedling of Cattleya wittigiana. This species is very closely related to Cattleya coccinea (see photo on yesterday’s post) but is pink rather than red.
In Brazil in 2000 we were able to film this species being pollinated by humming birds – see photo below – one of the magic moments from our school expeditions.
The species comes from similar habitat to Cattleya coccinea and we grow it in a similar way, mounted in good light in our Cool Americas section.
We still have Cattleya coccinea in flower (below) and it has just been joined by the related Sophronitella violacea which is also hummingbird pollinated.
Sophronitella violacea is native to Organ Mountains in Brazil where it grows in forests around 1000m and its flowers are 2.5cm across which is really rather large for this tiny species with 2cm pseudobulbs each topped by a single leaf.
The Organ Mountains (Serra dos Órgãos) are a precipitous ancient granite mountain range near the coast in the state of Rio de Janeiro and the spot we visited during our expeditions to Brazil in 2000 and 2005 – Students on a ridge in the Organ Mountains below.
In cultivation we find it likes to grow cool and bright and wet but enjoy really free draining conditions. We grow all our plants mounted and hanging high in the greenhouse where we spray plants daily except in warm summer weather when we spray them twice a day.
Flowers only last a week but are so utterly charming that we would never be without this species in our collection.
Can you spot the large red flower in today’s photo? All Trisitella species are true miniatures and all are spectacular in one way or another.
Trisetella scobina is a tiny plant with leaves just 15mm long that over time form a a little clump on the cork mount. Each winter the clump produces long thin flower spikes that produce very large (in comparison) flowers dominated by a deep red synsepal and long yellow tails. The flower spikes will produce several flowers successively over a long period so don’t cut them off until they are old and dead. The long thin flower stems are interestingly hairy too.
This species is a cloud forest endemic found in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia from in forests up to 2000m. We only grow the species mounted because of its size but find it a relatively straight forward species if kept well watered and shaded.
Our most dramatic species this week has to be this wonderful Dendrochilum with its 60 spikes of deep red flowers.
Dendrochilum javierense is a small growing dendrochilum with narrow stiff leaves and the more upright flower stems than most of the related species we grow.
The species is native to the Philippines where it grows in mossy forest above 1200m and so in culture we grow the plants damp all year. We grow the species in our Warm Asia section which it seems to enjoy although it would grow cooler. Our Cool Asia section we find a little too cool for it.
Another fragrant orchid today with this dramatic species from South America.
We have seen this species growing in Brazil at around 1200m altitude in road banks in the mountains and as a terrestrial in grassy and scrubby areas like that shown below. Here it is not really growing in soil but a loose mix of leaf litter and moss. Its scent is to attract euglossine (perfume gathering) bees just as Gongora species do.
There is some confusion/disagreement over species limits in Zygopetalum as maculatum now covers plants previously named Zygopetalum mackayi and intermedium. It is interesting to note that plants we found in Brazil of these types clearly had two different scents, one very sweet and another rather peppery implying that the two populations (possibly different species) may be attracting different pollinators and so be distinct.
The photograph shows the species flowering at the base of a small tree in Brazil in 2005 and growing amongst ferns and mosses.
In cultivation Zygopetalums can suffer from black marks on the leaves. We believe that this is environmental and we avoid the problem by growing the species cool and damp to avoid heat stress to the soft leaves. Notice the beautiful leaves on the wild plant in its cool damp habitat.