Bee and Pollination Festival 2019

Once again we are spending the first weekend of our new school year (that hasn’t really started yet) at the Bristol University Botanic Gardens for the annual Bee and Pollination Festival. The team (pictured here) were up at the crack of dawn and had this wonderful display finished by 10am in time for opening.

There have been masses of visitors this year and Jess, Chloe and Issy have been talking about their work and plans in Sarawak as well as the fascinating pollination stories of our orchids.

The Festival is on again tomorrow – don’t miss it.


Native orchid of the day – Autumn Lady’s Tresses (Spiranthes spiralis)

We were on the Dorset coast on Thursday and the Autumn Lady’s Tresses were the best we have seen there in the last few years. The tiny species gets its name from the attractive spiral of flowers up the spike.

This orchid needs really short turf to flourish and the grazing regime around Dancing Ledge has clearly been spot on this year.


Pleurothallis sonderana – 365 days of orchids – day 987

Our most exciting mini-miniature at the Bee and Pollination festival is Pleurothallis sonderana and I am sure it will cause a lot of interest. The leaves are 2-3cm long and this mature plant (we have a few) is covered in the 3mm yellow flowers. It is gnat pollinated.

The species is endemic to Southern Brazil where it grows as an epiphyte in cool moist forest.

We find Pleurothallis sonderana is a vigorous plant that forms a great little specimen and can be easily propagated by division. We always grow the species mounted and the plant shown has completely covered its 3cm x 4cm cork mount.

We grow plants shaded in Cool Americas and spray it daily.



Stelis genychila – 365 days of orchids – day 986


Packing plants for tomorrow’s Pollination Festival at the Bristol University Botanic Gardens it is good to see that we have a diversity of Stelis species to demonstrate the importance of tiny midge and gnat pollinators, and show that it is not all about bees.

Stelis is a genus closely related to Masdevallias and Pleurothallis. They are not widely grown in collections but the orchid project has been a big fan since exploring the forests of Brazil and Costa Rica where students came across many of these small flowered but very attractive species.

Stelis genychila like most Stelis species has flattish flowers with three larger sepals, forming a triangle, and much smaller petals and lip in the centre. These parts are easier to spot in Stelis genychila than many stelis species as the flowers are rather large and beautifully coloured.

The plan is medium sized for a stelis with leaves about 20cm long and the 30cm flower spikes have two opposite rows of 10-14 flowers. Leaves flower repeatedly over many years and so mature plants produce many spikes. We find that this species flowers on and off throughout the year.




Cattleya crispa – 365 days of orchids – day 985

With the Bristol University Botanic Garden’s Bee and Pollination day just two days away it is lovely to have some really spectacular orchids opening and one of them is this species from Brazil.

We have seen this large and dramatic orchid growing in cool Brazilian forests along the Rio del Flores in Rio State.

Plants produce a single leaf 30cm long at the top of a ridged pseudobulb and flower spikes emerge as the bulb matures giving around 5-10 12cm wide attractively folded and ruffled flowers (hence the name). The flowers are long lasting if kept dry and in common with related species look upwards for their pollinator and so are worth dropping down when in flower so you can enjoy the best view of the dark lip.

We have seen the plant growing high in trees at around 1000m and so give it cool bright conditions in Cool Americas (minimum 12C). In common with many orchid species it flowers most abundantly when it can get its roots into some dead wood on its host tree and so responds well to feeding when in growth.

The name refers to the wonderfully crisped lip.