Looking at native British orchids

It struck me today with increased restrictions on going out, that this will be the first year that I am not able to visit the Dorset coast to see Early Spider orchids in April. For all those who will be missing the wonders of native orchids this spring I have found a bee orchid seedling in our laboratory (above).

Maintaining the laboratory is of course essential work but very quiet without my wonderful student team. Seedlings need to be moved into new jars at least every six months to avoid the build up of toxins, and to provide new nutrient and air. The photo below shows how bee orchids (Ophrys apifera) respond to re-plating (moving into a new jar). The seedlings were sown about a year ago – the ones on the left have been re-plated once, six months ago (and were done again today), the jar on the right were missed (though I have tried to save them by re-plating today).



Dendrobium jonesii – 365 days of orchids – day 1190

I am rather surprised to discover that we have never featured Dendrobium jonesii on 365 days.

This is an impressive species similar to Dendrobium speciosum although jonesii is smaller growing. The species is native to warm forests in Queensland, Australia and so we grow plants warmer than most of our Australian dendrobiums, in our warm Asia section.

The impressive flower spikes have around 50 large creamy white flowers that do not open fully. The species has attractive dark green leaves and stout pseudobulbs – a lovely thing. We will be splitting our large specimen as soon as flowering finishes, so look out for divisions next year.


Oncidium wentworthianum – 365 days of orchids – day 1189


Some orchids, such as this species, are very straight forward to grow and always flower reliably.

This large growing Oncidium species is native to Central America where it is found as an epiphyte in dryish forest from about 500 to 1500m altitude. The plant grows new growths rapidly during the summer and then long spikes from the new pseudobulbs in the spring. Each metre long flower spike with side branches carries up to fifty bright and long lasting flowers.

We have seen the closely related species Oncidium spaculatum growing high in trees around Laguna Yaxha in Guatemala where they are exposed to bright sunshine and long dry periods. They cope with these tough conditions by growing a mass of roots which can collect and store a lot of water from rain or dew when it occurs. As a result plants are easy in cultivation and we have had specimen plants with more than twenty flower spikes.

We grow this species in Warm Americas (Min 15C) where it gets well watered in summer but a dryer winter after the bulbs have matured in late November. However we never let the bulbs shrivel.



Propagation in isolation?

It was a strange last day for our year 11s on Friday, no dressing up and prom celebrations. Hopefully we will have a special day for them later in the year. One extra activity for them was unloading a massive compost delivery for the greenhouse – thanks guys 🙂

We are all set for months of propagation and repotting. With no shows or events to prepare for we can concentrate on working on our orchids for a bumper year in 2021.


Dendrobium mohlianum – 365 days of orchids – day 1188

We have some magnificent dendrobiums in flower or in bud and one of my favourites is this bright orange species.

Dendrobium mohlianum is a dramatic species native to the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu (A real South Sea Islander). It is found in wet forests from 450 to 3000m altitude which indicates it is cool growing although we grow our plant very successfully in Warm Asia. It may be that our plant is propagated from plants found at the lower altitude range or that it is just not very fussy about temperature.

It is likely to be sun bird pollinated and the unusual folded up lip is adapted for the beak of a hovering bird rather than being a landing platform for an insect. The orange colour is also a classic bird pollination indicator and all the orchids this week have been bird pollinated species.

An unusual characteristic of the plant is to flower from old pseudobulbs – soma as old as seven years old on our plant. This produces a great display over time but remember not to cut off old leafless pseudobulbs or you will have no flowers. The flowers are very long lasting and with lots of buds still to open this plant will be at its peak from now until May.

We grow the plant mounted but to reflect its natural habitat we water it freely and are happy to let moss grow naturally on the cork mount which helps to keep the plant wet between waterings.