As regulars will know, it is the fantastic diversity of orchids that we love rather than any one species of genus. We are trying to offer this diversity at our shop and today we have:
Our first Dendrobium – Dendrobium aphyllum – a species we have seen in Sikkim
Our first Platystele species – Platystele consorbrina with delightful miniature flowers.
Our third Stelis species – Stelis polyantha that produces more flowers than any other species in our collection.
And two restrepia species – Restrepis striata and Restrepia trichoglossa.
This lovely little Bulbophyllum is a relatively common species in Sarawak and we came across the species in several reserves in Borneo. Flowering in the greenhouse this morning it particularly reminds me of the canopy walkway in Mulu National Park, Sarawak.
In October 2019 students enjoyed a 400m journey through the tree tops of Mulu’s diverse lowland rainforest. (see more of the wonders of Mulu here: Mammals, Insects, reptiles and amphibians and Paphiopedilum sanderianum)
High above the forest floor and the rivers below we found orchids and Pygmy Squirrels. One of the orchids was Bulbophyllum purpurascens (below) growing on the timber frame of the walkway towers.
This pretty little bulbophyllum has an unlikely name meaning the purple bulbophyllum but this refers to the purplish colour of the leaves not the light yellow flowers!
The species is native to Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia where it grows as an epiphyte in evergreen montane forest from around 900-1700 m and we find it does best mounted or in baskets in our Warm Asia section.
Most orchids flower once a year and each year one waits expectantly to see what a show your favourite plants will put on. I have have been anticipating the flowering of this Central American jewel for a while after it having a very good growing season last year and I haven’t been disappointed. The plant has eight spikes of delicate but long lasting flowers with beautiful makings on the lip.
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.
This Greater Butterfly orchid (Platanthera chlorantha) was a highlight of long walk along the Wiltshire Downs near Warminster. This large orchid has no spots on the leaves and is one of the larger UK species when fully out.
We also bumped into Twayblade (Neottia ovata) – below. This is a lovely if a little understated orchid with green and brown flowers in profusion.
The third orchid in flower was our first Common Spotted orchid of the year. With its lovely spotted leaves and luscious pink flowers.
I have really been missing long walks amongst flowers and the Wiltshire Downs are a great spot at this time of year. As well as the orchids there are masses of lovely wild flowers including the rather rare Early Gentian (a Wiltshire speciality) (below)
The yellow horseshoe vetch and the blue and pink Milkwort is spectacular
along with Meadow Saxifrage and so many more.