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.
Another of our favourite Pleurothaliis species today with a species we have seen growing in Costa Rica.
Pleurothallis ruscifolia is a medium sized plant that produces clusters of small creamy yellow flowers several times during the year.
We found the species growing abundantly in cool wet forest in Costa Rica on the Poas volcano at an altitude of around 1400m. The photo below was taken in Costa Rica by one of the students on our 2005 expedition and shows how the flowers shine out when caught in a shaft of sunlight breaking through the lush canopy above.
Most of the plants we saw were growing on the trunks or lower branches of large evergreen trees and so spent much of their time in deep shade. We visited Costa Rica in July and found that on Poas it rained heavily every day. The rain usually arrived at about 12.30 and continued until about 4pm. We grow the species mounted and in pots in Cool Americas and keep it watered all year to reflect the climate it has evolved for but don’t stick rigidly to the Costa Rican timings for watering each day.
We are massive fans of the diverse genus Pleurothallis and some of the species produce massive amounts of flower. This species is one we have yet to possitively identify (i will add a close up of a single flower once students return next week) but thanks to Mark Wilson who suggests it is a Crocodeilanthe species. Crocodeilanthe has been a section within Pleurothallis that has been separated to a separate genus or included in Stelis. The plant was donated to us with the name baeza which is a town in Ecuador and we therefore assume that the species is native to the cloud forests around Baeza.
This year the plant has really flourished in our Cool Asia section with lots of water and is growing larger (leaves to 50cm high) with more flower spikes per leaf – usually four – and flowers more spread on the spikes (last year’s flowering below)
What ever the plants correct name it is really worthwhile growing with its fantastic floral display.