365 days of orchids – day 260 – Stelis hallii

This relatively large flowered stelis species is found in cool mossy forests in Ecuador, Colombia and Peru as an epiphyte or lithophyte from 1200 to 3000m altitude.

This is the ninth stelis species we have included in 365 days reflecting both the diversity of the genus (there are around 500 stelis species) and the large number of species we grow at Writhlington. We first met the genus in the cloud forests around Macae de Cima in Brazil and ever since we have been to show what rewarding and interesting plants these are.



365 days of orchids – day 259 – Cattleya amethystoglossa


This is a bi-foliate Cattleya from Eastern Brazil where it grows as a lithophyte on rocks at around 500m altitude. When grown well it has tall bulbs and up to twenty flowers on a spike.

To match its habitat it enjoys warm bright conditions and a well drained compost. We find it does best in a basket with just course bark. The lithophytic orchids we have seen in Brazil in similar conditions produce abundant roots that cling to the rock and are able to collect ample water when rain falls but dry out completely for periods in the  dry season (our winter) when not in growth.


365 days of orchids – day 258 – Cymbidium elegans


This unusual cymbidium species is native to the Himalayas where we have seen it growing abundantly in forests above Gangtok (capital of Sikkim) as well as in North Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

It is a medium sized species but a vigorous species and when not in flower can be identified by the large number of seed pods left from the many crowded flowers on the spike. It grows in cool wet evergreen forest and is usually high in trees.

We find the species is well suited to growing in a large basket which we water daily and develops a layer of moss over time. We grow with a minimum temperature od 10C in Cool Asia but it could tolerate lower.



365 days of orchids – day 257 – Lepanthes elegantula

This species is found in Ecuador normally growing in cool damp cloud forests. we grow them in cool america, in a wet and shady place, away from sunlight. They grow up to 2800 to 3300 meters in cloud forests, and also they’re normally  1/2 cm long.

the flowers attract a male fungus gnat by mimicking a female gnat.


365 days of orchids – day 256 – Prosthechea cochleata

Here is another orchid that is always in flower. There hasn’t yet been a day in 2017 when we have been without a plant in flower and I am sure that will continue into the new year.

As well as continuous flowering the species is special to the Orchid Project as it is a species we have seen in the wild both in Guatemala and Belize and so it is a species we know very well.

In Guatemala we found the species growing abundantly in the hot dryish forests around Yaxha and on plant in particular on the edge of the cliff overlooking the lake has provided a key to successful culture. The plant and its habitat are shown below.

The plant is growing near the ground on a live tree made horizontal by hurricanes and the position is open but shaded. There is some moss on the trunk showing that this spot is a little damper than most of the surrounding forest (probably due to morning mists condensing on the cliff edge) but most dramatic was the size of the plants root system. We recorded roots extending over 1.5m in either direction from the plant representing both considerable mass compared to the leaves and bulbs, and an extraordinarily effective moisture gathering system. This shows that although the plant comes from a dryish habitat it enjoys frequent watering in cultivation as our roots are no match for the wild ones. It is also very apparent that none of the wild plants we found had shrivelled bulbs.

In Belize the species (known locally as the Black Orchid) is the national flower and it was a pleasure to see it again on our visit to Belize in coastal forest along rivers and in large evergreen trees further inland.

The species is found across Central America, the Caribbean and into North America and this wide range has resulted in considerable variation within the species – a good excuse to grow several plants of this wonderful orchid. The range also extends away from the hot lowland forests and up to 1900m and so it is not fussy about temperature.

The species is pollinated by large butterflies that grab onto the protruding lower part of the lip (we like to call them butterfly handles) and then follow the radial lines with their proboscises to the nectar.