I appears that we are celebrating ‘Dendrobium Week’ with lots of wonderful species flowering together in our Warm Asia section. To follow Monday’s Dendrobium aphyllum we have Dendrobium farmeri. This species belongs to section densiflorum and so produces its flowers on pendulous spikes from near the top of club shaped pseudobulbs.
Dendrobium farmeri is easily distinguished from similar species by the pink ground to the flowers that have a very prominent deep yellow/orange centre to the lip. With us plants flower from April through to June although individual spikes only last a week.
Dendrobium farmeri is found from Sikkim to South East Asia and we have seen it growing at an altitude of 500m on large boulders in West Bengal near Kalimpong in full sun where it would experience hot wet summers and dryer cooler winters. We grow the species in baskets to show off the long pendulous flower spike as they appear in nature.
On Easter Monday we have an orchid that reminds us of wonderful Easters spent in the monsoon forests of Sikkim. Easter is a great time to visit the Himalayas – it is towards the end of the dry season and lots of orchids are in flower, the weather is great – still snow in the fir forests at 3700m, and warm and dry in the lowland forests where we came across this wonderful and fairly common orchid.
Dendrobium aphyllum is a warm growing species and grows on the same trees as Vanda ampulacea from 200m to about 900m altitude. It also grows as a lithophyte on large boulders and cliffs and I have seen it on the road from Siliguri to Gangtok.
The species is very pendulous with long thin canes that grow with lush light green leaves during the very wet summer from April to September. Plants then drop all of the leaves and remain leafless until flowering. We grow the species in Warm Asia for the summer and then move it to the roof of Cool America for the winter when we avoid spraying it with water once the leaves have been dropped.
Over time the plant can form a large clump as shown by this magnificent specimen near the road to Gangtok in Sikkim. You may just be able to see the bright pink of Vanda ampulacea on the opposite side of the tree from the dendrobium.
The species flowers as a young plant too – see below
….but looks even better as a specimen just like its sister in Sikkim
For Easter Sunday we have The Easter Orchid – Guarianthe skinneri (previously Cattleya skinneri)
Guarianthe skinneri is national flower of Costa Rica and a species we have seen growing in tall trees in open forests around 800m with plants on the tops of thick branches in very exposed positions in strong sunshine. It is a very regular late April flowering species (hence the name Easter Orchid) and it always reminds me of our fantastic visits to Costa Rica in 2003 and 2007.
We have two fantastic clones flowering in the Greenhouse. The first is var. oculata alba – this is the one with white flowers apart from the purple circle in the lip and a little yellow on the lip too. The second is often called var albescens and is almost pure white except for the faintest pink blush to the end of the lip and yellow in the centre of the lip – that will be flowering in another week or so.
In Costa Rica the species is known as guaria morada and when DNA evidence suggested that it should be moved from the genus Cattleya a new genus was created that reflected the Costa Rican name. (This was thanks to US botanist Bob Dressler who I have had the pleasure or working with in Costa Rica).
Anyway, the species is is fantastic which ever name especially in these lovely almost white clones (the usual colour is predominantly pink).
We replicate natural conditions by growing plants in baskets hung high in Warm Americas where they get lots of light and dry out between waterings although plants enjoy lots of water when in growth in the summer months but much dryer winters.
Masdevallia setacea of one of our absolute favourite masdevallias with its very large flowered species found from Colombia to Peru.
This remarkable Masdevallia is found from Colombia to Peru and has flowers considerably larger than the plant. Including the long yellow tails to the sepals the flowers are 14cm from top to bottom. For us the species flowers irregularly throughout the year which probably reflects the even conditions it finds in its cloud forest home from 1400-2400m altitude.
From photographs it appears that the species is highly variable and has many colour forms so perhaps we should be on the look out for different clones.
The plant is small growing and does well mounted, in baskets or in pots
Our second Australian orchid of the week is this remarkable species with fleshy pointed leaves along a pendulous rhizome. Our specimen plant (shown here) is now over 2m long after twenty years of growing and the whole thing is covered in very attractive flowers with light green petal and sepals, and a white and pink lip.
The flowers begin to appear on our plant in early March and the last ones go over at the end of April. As can be seen from the photos the flowers are non-resupinate (upside down with the lip at the top) and produced in profusion from all along the pendulous stems.
We grow our plant mounted on a largish piece of cork bark and we spray the plant daily, it hangs up where it gets good light in our Cool Asia section.