365 days of orchids – day 681 – Epidendrum melanoporphyreum

Melanoporphyreum means black and purple which is a pretty good name for this epidendrum from Peru with unusually coloured flowers.

Epidendrum melanoporphyreum is a close relative of Epidendrum paniculatum which we featured last week and grows in similar cool wet forests at around 1500m altitude so is well suited to our Cool Asia section. The flowers are long lasting and produced on branched spikes.

The flowers are larger than in most of this group of epidendrums making this a great species to grow. We have large numbers of this species in our propagation lab and so lots will be available in flask next year.


Orchid Christmas – Wed 12th December from 6pm until 9pm

For all the people who have been asking when we are next open, a reminder that the festive season wouldn’t be complete without ‘Orchid Christmas’, our annual celebration of the previous year at the Writhlington Orchid Project.

Orchid Christmas is a public evening event on Wednesday 12th December running from 6pm until 9pm. There will be tours of the glasshouses (which are always spectacular in December), short talks from students, special Christmas plant and seedling kit sales to solve those present worries, live music and lovely mulled wine and mince pies.

We can’t promise snow but we can promise a great evening in a tropical paradise without having to fly 2000 miles.


365 days of orchids – day 680 – Oncidium ornithorhynchum


Many orchid species are quite variable in flower colour as todays orchid shows. We have this species in a light pink and dark pink form but both of them smell strongly of chocolate and so this is a very popular at school (if you came to the British Orchid Show you couldn’t miss the fragrance which currently fill our Cool Americas section.

When grown well it produces several spikes of long lasting flowers from each pseudobulb and so a great little display. It also flowers when quite a small seedling and so is a rewarding plant to grow from seed.

The species is native to Central America where it grows in humid forests up to 1500m altitude and though it seems not to be fussy about temperatures it does best for us in our Cool Americas Section. This plant is mounted on an old piece of Elder but it does well for us mounted or in pots.

This species has been used in breeding hybrids which also have the delicious chocolate scent.


Home grown stars at the British Orchid Show – Barbosella handroi

We were delighted to win a Certificate of Cultural Commendation from the RHS Orchid Committee for our Barbosella handroi ball. This stunning miniature plant was de-flasked onto a small cork mount in 2000 and this mount is still in the middle of the plant somewhere.

We grow the species cool and well watered but hung up so that it dries out again relatively quickly. We weed out the moss that grows in amongst it quite regularly as moss would out compete the plant given a chance. We have seen the species clothing the upper branches of tall trees in primary Brazilian cloud forest at Macae de Cima in our trips there in 2000 and 2006.


365 days of orchids – day 679 – Epidendrum paniculatum

It is not just our monster orchids that the public have enjoyed in the greenhouse but our wonderful diversity of smaller species too.

Epidendrum paniculatum is a lovely species and as traditionally described was found throughout Central and South America in cool wet forest above 1000m but the complex (group of similar species) has been split into several species with the true Epidendrum paniculatum being endemic to Peru. If there are any Epidendrum experts out there who could suggest a current name for this member of the Epidendrum paniculatum complex we would be delighted.

We grow the species in baskets and it flowers from small plants 15cm high with a few flowers and when taller produces many flowers on branched spikes.

We were fortunate to observe a glass wing butterfly pollinating the similar Epidendrum piliatum in Costa Rica on our last school expedition there.

The photo clearly shows how the butterfly uses the edges of the lip to brace itself for pushing its proboscis into the flower below the column and explains the shape of these lovely flowers.