Thanks to all those who have voted for orchid of the year 2108. The result will be announced at the end of school today so you still have time to Vote here for your Orchid of the Year.
This wonderful orchid species is a great reminder of our visits to Laos and a tale of two bulbophyllums.
We came across Bulbophyllum lilacium on our first visit to Laos in 2005 with it’s distinct habit of bulbs separated by a long rhizome that let the plant wrap itself around the trunks of large trees and finally in 2011 we found it in flower in open regrowth forest near Paksong (see photo below)
The arching dense flowers are really attractive and are pinky (the name means lilac bulbophyllum). The plant here is growing in good light at 1000m altitude where it experiences warm wet summers, cool dry winters and a hot dry spring. We find that our seedling of the species has flourished in our Warm Asia section and this week it has flowered for the first time.
As a young plant with small bulbs the rhizome between bulbs was very small but last year it showed its true character by growing the new bulb (with the flower0 several cm from the last bulb and promptly rooted itself firmly to the plant below which is the miniature species Bulbophyllum dolichoglottis. We now have two bulbophyllums growing together which is happens in the forests around Paksong too. We will post Bulbophyllum dolichoglottis tomorrow!
We will now be looking for a suitable new mount for our Bulbophyllum lilacium so that it can do its thing and look as majestic as the plant we photographed in Laos.
Some plants have the bonus of producing flowers several times throughout the year and our large plant of Coelogyne tomentosa is in flower more often than it is not.
This coelogyne species is native to Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo and Java where it grows in evergreen forest from 1150 to 2100m altitude. Although the habitat suggests the plant would grow cooler we find that the species does best for us in a shady spot in Warm Asia (minimum 18C) where we grow the species in baskets and keep plants wet all year. Keeping plants wet in a basket can be a challenge as they temd to dry out quickly both in the summer on hot days and in the winter when the heating is working hard. We find the best way to avoid the plant getting to dry is to hang the basket low down so that it is not exposed to the most drying air and bright sun as well as being easier to water thoroughly.
Long pendulous flower spikes are produced throughout the year with periods like this week with multiple spikes out together. The flowers are fairly short lived and easily bruised or water damaged but give a fantastic show when at their peak.
Our large plant has now reached the point where it would benefit from splitting so that new growths have space and fresh compost to develop into large bulbs.
Winter has really arrived with consecutive nights of heavy frost which feels right for January. In this weather our Cool Asia and Temperate Sections become properly cool (10c and 7C respectively) giving the plants in these sections the seasonal difference and rest they enjoy. Our Cool Americas Section (min 12C) is rather different as plants are in full growth and enjoying the lack of hot days although we need to water well to conteract the drying effect of the heating.
We have one of our favourite species from the Cool Americas today with Pleurothallis palliolata. This is another species that arrived with us as an unexpected ‘weed’ on a different plant. We were given our first plant of Octomeria grandiflora (day 317) in 1999 and soon noticed some very small leaves near its base that were the ‘wrong’ shape. These developed into the characteristic elongated heart shaped leaves of Pleurothallis palliolata and eventually the large flowers settled the matter – we think the flowers look like lizard heads!
The species propagates freely by keikis ontop of the older leaves and we now have a large number of small plants from the original as well as a second clone (shown here) donated by Liz and Tony Taylor. Liz and Tony generously donated a number of Pleurothallis species and caused great excitement amongst the students responsible for Cool Americas as they recorded the new additions to their collection and set about dividing and propagating the plants.
Pleurothallis palliolata is native to cool mountain forests in Costa Rica and Panama. We have seen closely related species growing in wet evergreen forest at 1400m on the Poas volcano in deep shade. We grow the species successfully both mounted and in pots.
The school greenhouse is looking a picture with the low winter sunshine filtering through the plants and in our Cool Americas section it pick out the many small diverse flowers typical of this section. One very cute little species is this one from South America.
Ada brachypus is miniature member of the Oncidium family and comes from the cloud forests of Ecuador where it grows in moss from 1200 to 2400m altitude. Plants grow to about 8cm high.
We find this plant does best in 3cm pots and baskets amongst miniature masdevallia species in Cool Americas where we keep it well watered throughout the year.
The flowers are produced from maturing growths and, although small, plants quickly form clumps and so produce many flowers together to give a charming display. This is yet another example of the wonderful diversity of Orchid Species.