This orchid species is the wonderfully fragrant and spectacular Prosthechea radiata (named for the red radial lines on the lip)
We have seen Prosthechea radiata growing abundantly in the hot lowland forests of Guatemala and Belize and the best place we have found to see it in the wild is the Ancient Mayan city of Tikal. Here it is easy to spot the species from the tops of the excavated Mayan Pyramids.
The photograph here shows one of the large plants (in bud) near this pyramid which makes the climb up the wooden steps well worth it.
The orchids in this forest are dominated by large specimens which indicates that the dryish conditions do not suit the establishment of seedlings except on particularly wet years.
The species makes great specimens in cultivation too and we have had plants bigger than the Tikal specimen. The plant featured today is well on the way with six spikes growing in a 15cm basket.
The species also flowers quickly from seed (in about 4-5 years)
We grow plants in Warm Americas where they are watered most days as baskets dry out quickly. It is interesting that for it to flourish in cultivation we grow this plant much wetter than it grows in its natural habitat. A key reason for this is very extensive root system epiphytes can develop in habitat where roots can run for several metres from a specimen plant. In cultivation deteriorating compost tend to reduce the number of years roots survive for and so the fewer roots are able to collect less water in cultivation.
Several plants make a lovely show this week.
As the hot weather continues we can celebrate this lovely warm growing species from Mexico and Central America. This is one species that always attracts attention from visitors with its large delicate butterfly pollinated flowers.
This species is found in the wild in Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador in dryish oak forest from 1200m to about 2000m. We grow it with a minimum temperature of 15 degrees C mounted on a cork slab in our Warm Americas section.
The natural habitat indicates it could be grown cool (down to about 12 degrees) but our plants seem to appreciate the heat. It flowers in the early summer as the first of our Barkeria speices each year.
We have tried growing the species in pots but we the roots have always suffered from rots and the plants have struggled as a result. On cork bark mounts the roots are wonderful and last for years, so we will always grow plants mounted.
A massive thank you to all the students and volunteers that made the Writhlington School Open Evening (For prospective students) such a success yesterday evening. Science room ST6 was a hive of activity with Agnes and her student team demonstrating the orchid Lab and helping youngsters to pot their own Coelogyne fimbriata.
In the greenhouse the sixth form team and Josh did a great job too and amongst the plants visitors enjoyed was Dracula amaliae.
Dracula amaliae is native to cloud forests in Colombia at around 1800m altitude. As with most Draculas it is pollinated by fungus gnats and attracts them with a fake mushroom shaped lip. This also gives the ‘Monkey Face’ look shared by a number of species.
We grow the plant in Cool Americas but find we need to give a few Dracula specific conditions for the plant to flourish. Firstly it needs to be grown in a basket (as you can see here) as many of the flowers grow downwards from the base of the leaves. Secondly it enjoys being very damp and heavily shaded. We find that the easy way to provide these conditions is to hang the dracula’s basket below another plant in a basket providing shade and added moisture. The level of moisture is shown by the natural growth of moss on the basket.
The final requirement is to avoid high temperatures which cause brown patches on the leaves and leaf drop. This is also helped by hanging below another plant as the dracula is at around waist height and not it the warmer air near the top of the greenhouse.
This all sounds quite complicated but as you can see it is well worth it.
Our Cool Americas section is looking wonderful this week thanks to the long arching sprays of Odontoglossum rhynchanthum.
Odontoglossum rhynchanthum is endemic to Colombian cloud forest above 2000m. Authorities describe the species as producing 30cm spikes with up to seven flowers but our clone produces graceful arching spikes to 70cm with up to twelve flowers. Leading bulbs produce a number of spikes and give a fantastic display of the large and colourful flowers.
We have divided our older plants and now have several young plants in baskets like the one shown. We find that baskets are ideal for odontoglossum species as long as they can be kept damp with watering most days.
We grow our plants cool (minimum 12C) and damp all year.