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.
There are always Coelogynes flowering in the school greenhouse and this species always flowers during July and August in our Cool Asia Section.
Unusually, Coelogyne schultesii has a wonderful habit of flowering for several years from each flower spike, a habit it shares with a small number of other species from section prolifera, and this gives a fantastic display from mature plants.
After flowering the flower spikes take a ten month rest before extending again for the next year’s flowers. The longest we have had is four years of flowering from one stem.
We have seen this species in forest above Gangtok in Sikkim, and Kalimpong in West Bengal, where it grows in cool, wet, evergreen, monsoon forest on mossy trunks and branches.To match this habitat we grow the species in our Cool Asia section (minimum 10C) and keep it well watered throughout the year and remember not to cut off the flower spikes.
This species is a July regular in the greenhouse.
Like its close relative Myrmecophyila tibicinis, Myrmecophila humboldtii has long spikes (this one is 1.2m long) with large flowers towards the top that open sequentially. The flowers have a sweet fragrance and sugary liquid around the buds presumably to feed the ants with which the plant associates.
We have seen lots of Myrmecophila tibicinis growing in Central America but Myrmecophila humboldtii is found in Venezuela and nearby islands (the Netherland Antilles). The species is native to hot drying lowland forests near the coast and we replicate these conditions by hanging the plant high in our Warm Americas section in a basket of course bark. The plant is then very little trouble apart from the need to drop it lower when it flowers to allow for the length of the spike.