Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis – 365 days of orchids – day 1767

Our smelliest orchid is in flower and this time has two large flower spikes each with about 18 large, unusual and very stinky flowers.

Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis is native to lowland forests in New Guinea where it grows as an epiphyte in deep shade. It has several remarkable characteristics including the enormous leaves. Our plant’s longest leaf measures 90cm long and at the base of each leaf is a stout compressed pseudobulb.

The flowers are even stranger than the leaves and mimic meat to attract female carrion flies looking for a good spot to lay their eggs.It has been suggested that the yellow hairs on the red flowers mimic maggots crawling out of meat! – nice concept.

The flowers have a reputation as the smelliest of any orchid species and they do really stink. The flowers have a really foul smell of dead things but you have to get fairly close for it to become too much to bare.

The flowers large red flowers do not open very far, presumably to make the pollinating flies force their way inside and inside they are a glorious deep blood red.

After pollinating the flowers and looking at them closely we have found that the smell does follow us around rather – what a treat!

We grow the species in a basket hanging in Warm Asia (min 17C) and we water throughout the year.



Barbosella handroi – 365 days of orchids – day 1766

Our wonderful and heavily awarded Barbosella handroi specimen is once again in full flower (above) – as are our smaller plants (below)

This tiny orchid – the leaves are just 1cm long  – produces the most extraordinary display every autumn, with flowers from old and new leaves that almost hide the plant.

Barbosella handroi is native to cloud forest in Brazil and we have seen the species clothing the upper branches of tall trees in primary Brazilian cloud forest at Macae de Cima in our trips there in 2000 and 2006. The forest here was damp and shaded and cool at 1200m altitude. Even in the dry season (we visited in October and again in March at the end and the start of the dry season) with little rain, the forest was dripping from mists and dew every morning.

We grow the species cool and well watered but hung up so that it dries out again relatively quickly. We weed out the moss that grows in amongst it quite regularly as moss would out compete the plant given a chance.

Our plants are all from one flask of seedlings and we have a couple of distinct clones with either brown or yellow flowers.



Cymbidium cochleare – 365 days of orchids – day 1764


Looking back it seems that I always photograph this lovely orchid at in the dark! This small cybidium is spoiling us this year with three spikes.

As the photos below show, daylight lets the flowers show off their golden hues and the beautiful red spotting around the lip.


Cymbidium cochleare is a species we have seen in Sikkim and in the wild or cultivation it is instantly recognisable from its very thin pendulous flower spikes with glossy pendulous flowers that smell of jasmine. We found the species growing abundantly in the Fambong Lho reserve near Gangtok (see our group with staff and students of Takse School below)

The plant is a delicate cymbidium with fine dark green leaves and this species really needs to be in a basket to allow for the flower habit.

The species is found across the eastern Himalayas from Sikkim to Thailand and inhabits cool wet monsoon forests. We water the plant well to avoid drying in the summer especially as it is in a basket and give a winter minimum of 10C that replicates the very wet, cool forests of Fambong Lho.


Bulbophyllum lilacium – 365 days of orchids – day 1763

I have a real soft spot for the wonderful orchid species we have come across in our school expeditions to tropical forests and Bulbophyllum lilacium is a great reminder of our visits to Laos.

We came across Bulbophyllum lilacium on our first visit to Laos in 2005 with it’s distinct habit of bulbs separated by a long rhizome that let the plant wrap itself around the trunks of large trees and finally in 2011 we found it in flower in open regrowth forest near Paksong (see photo below)

The arching dense flowers are really attractive and are pinky (the name means lilac bulbophyllum). The plant here is growing in good light at 1000m altitude where it experiences warm wet summers, cool dry winters and a hot dry spring. We find that our seedling of the species has flourished in our Warm Asia section and now flowers every year.

As you can see the species has a long rhizome between bulbs which makes it a little inconvenient to grow and we find it suits baskets or cork mounts where it can be encouraged to wrap around its home – just like the one on its Lao tree.


Masdevallia pandurilabia – 365 days of orchids – day 1762

We love an orchid species with a good name and Masdevallia pandurilabia gets its name from its lute shaped lip (its actually rather small so a teeny weeny lute). We also love the little red spots and the cute crossed legged look of the sepaline tails on the flowers held on long spikes well clear of the leaves.

Masdevallia pandurilabia is a small growing species native to Peru, where it grows in cloud forest above 2600m altitude loving it cool and moist with good air movement. Some species from similar habitats are a challenge to grow well in a greenhouse, but this species seems to be a vigorous grower and as you can see from the photo on the left produces lovely glossy leaves too. We grow this species in baskets of bark and moss and give it a minimum of 10-12C.