This afternoon the Mendip R and D team have been working with our precious seedlings of Dendrobium pendulum.
(Dendrobium pendulum flowering)
Dendrobium pendulum is a species we have seen in the forests of Southern Laos where it is easily distinguished from other species by the lumpy nodes on the pseudobulbs. In Laos and other areas of its range, in the Himalayas and South East Asia, it is unsustainably collected for the Chinese medicine trade and horticulture making it increasingly threatened.
Our seedlings are linked to the Myanmar conservation project lead by Thant Sin Aye and Dino Zelenika and hopefully will help protect populations in the area.
Today Luca and his team have transplanted the one mother flask (where the seed was sown) into twenty five fresh jars to give the seedlings room and fresh nutrients.
We will let you know how the plants get on.
We are delighted to be working with Steve Threlkeld who manages the Dunsdon Nature reserve in West Devon to help reverse the decline in one of Britain’s iconic orchid species. project forms part of the Back from the Brink project to save Britain’s most threatened species from extinction and students will be raising plants from seed in the Mendip Propagation Laboratory as part of their R & D project work.
Yesterday Steve visited to work with students on pollination techniques in preparation for this years flowering of the species at Dunsdon.
After pollinating 15 different orchid species in the greenhouse Steve spent time with students in the Mendip Propagation Lab looking at our propagation techniques and was particularly interested in this flask of germinated bee orchid seed (Orchis apifera)
We hope that by this time next year we will have many thousands of seedlings of the Lesser Butterfly Orchid at the same stage.
Bulbophyllum is a fantastically diverse genus from giant stinky things like last week’s Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis to this little miniature (that doesn’t stink).
The species is native to South East Asia with masses of deep red flowers on a miniature plant. The flowers last about two weeks.
The species is reported from 600-2000m but with us it definitely prefers to grow on the cooler side compared to many of our bulbophyllums from the same region. We find it grows and flowers best when grown in our Cool Americas section (perhaps it enjoys having a holiday) with a minimum of 12C and vent opening at 18C.
This delightful Central American species has long lasting flowers in short spikes from a small plant with fine leaves. This year the plant has started to become a specimen with five flower spikes.
The species comes from Central America and we have seen it in Belize a few miles inland from Belize city. Encyclias are Laelineae and so related to Cattleyas and Laelias that tend to have tall pseudobulbs and thick stiff leaves. Encyclia bractescens is something of an exception with thin grass like leaves and small pseudobulbs. The long lasting flowers are large for the size of plant and although it seems slow to multiply up to being a specimen it is a rewarding plant to grow.
In Belize we found it growing as an epiphyte in regrowth forest in one of the villages that form the Community Baboon Sanctuary http://www.belizehowlermonkeys.org/ which is actually a sanctuary set up more that 25 years ago with WWF support that set up skeleton forest in a group of villages in Belize. Skeleton forest is continuous forest shared with villagers who all keep 50 yeard of forest at the edge of their land. Although called a Baboon reserve it is aimed at protecting Black Howler Monkeys which we have met and enjoyed watching (and hearing) in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Belize.
We saw Black Howler Monkeys in the reserve (see below) and lots of Orchids too. If you protect habitat for one species than all the biodiversity benefits.
One of the orchid was Encyclia bractescens growing as an epiphyte on the truck of a small tree in fairly open forest and dappled shade (shown nicely on our photograph). The altitude was around 100m above sea level.
Flowering in Belize.
We grow this species in Warm Americas in a basket to give good drainage though we water well during the summer (wet season in Belize).
We expect the plant to become an impressive specimen over time if it continues to flourish and we find that growing plants is baskets makes growing specimen plants possible because of the healthy long term root systems basket culture encourages.
At last weekends Devon show it was great to have so many fragrant orchids on our display (including the sweet and lovely Bifrenaria harrisoniae and the stinky Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis). One of the other fragrant plants was this lovely species which fills the whole of Warm Americas with its delicious play-doh scent.
Prosthechea baccalus is found over a wide range through Central and South America and forms a large plant with 40 cm pseudobulbs topped by 40cm leaves. The flowers are almost always in pairs, back to back but we get threes on particularly strong growths.
Found from 400 to 1700m the plant is not fussy about temperature and we grow it well in both Warm Americas and Cool Americas keeping it damp all year. Growing the species in different temperatures extends the flowering season as the warmer growing plants flower first during May while the cooler growing plants wait until June.