I hope that our daily orchid and tales of wonderful tropical forests is of some comfort to those of you in self isolation, struggling to continue with essential work or worried for jobs, friends and family. Today we are travelling to the warm monsoon forests of the Himalayan foothills.
Phalaenopsis manii is a species we have met in lowland forest on several of our trips to the Himalayas. The best plant we have seen was growing in Nameri National Park, one of Assam’s fantastic Tiger reserves. (see photo below) These forests seem a long way away from lockdown UK but we will be back in that wonderful part of the world one day.
The photo clearly shows the natural habitat for the plant. The forest is seasonally dry forest and there is not sufficient rainfall or humidity for moss to grow on the branches colonised by the orchid. This plant is in the lowest branches of a large evergreen tree where light levels are quite low and it is protected from extreme desiccation in the dry season. The photograph also shows the very extensive root system this massive plant has developed over time (it must be at least twenty years old) and this will store a lot of water during dry periods as well as collecting a lot of water when it does rain.
It is also noticeable that in common with most Phalaenopsis species P. mannii has a pendulous habit which will prevent water resting in new leaves and causing rots. We grow our school plant in a pendulous way by letting it lean out of its basket. It clearly loves to grow like this and is now starting to form a clump a little similar to the wonderful specimen in Assam (by the way I am happy to talk to people interested in travelling to this fascinating region)
Sadly we are closing the school today for the COVID 19 crisis. it will be hard for our student growers to leave the greenhouse for a prolonged period – but we will be back. The school will have a skeleton staff to look after key workers’ children and the greenhouse will be skeleton staffed in an isolationist manner by the team. With no shows in the near future we will take the opportunity to concentrate on propagation, so expect lots of new species on our sales tables when the shows begin again.
365 days of orchids will continue during the shutdown and we will share the orchids that would have features at the London Show in April, the Devon Show and British Orchid Congress in May, the Malvern International Orchid Show in June. We wish all those involved with the shows that have been cancelled well and look forward to getting together in better times.
The final school activity today will be selling orchids for Mothers Day from 3.30 to 4.30.
The greenhouse is particularly full of flowers this week and one species this species is responsible for many of them.
Dendrobium delicatum is a natural hybrid between two Australian species, that have already featured in 365 days, Dendrobium speciosum and Dendrobium kingianum . With the variable nature of the parent species it is not a surprise that Dendrobium delicatum is highly variable too.
We have clones that are blush pink, white and cream but all are very fragrant. The plants are variable too but generally have long pseudobulbs (up to 40cm long) which are much thinner than those on Dendrobium speciosum.
The plant makes a great specimen as it gets older and our biggest plant shown here, in the first photo, is now more than 2m across and a wonderful thing. It won best specimen at the RHS London Orchid Show in 2019 (see below) but weill be even better this year when all its flowers open. The species is also easy to grow and quick to propagate from keikis.
We grow plants in our Cool Asia section (min 10C) and in our Temperate section (min 6C) so this is a cool growing species although plants that have found their way into other sections of the greenhouse also flourish. We keep plant well watered in the summer when in growth but a bit dryer in the winter and spring especially when in flower.
Wandering through our Cool Americas Section yesterday we were delighted to find the bright orange flowers of Cattleya harpophylla looking back at us. We have a number of dramatic Brazilian orchid species with bright red and orange flowers. Cattleya harpophylla is a small to medium sized plant with narrow bulbs and leaves that turn red in bright light.
This brightly coloured Brazilian species is found as an epiphyte from 500 to 900m. Exploring similar forests we have found them to have wet summers and dryer but not completely dry winters. We find plants enjoy growing in shade in Cool Americas both mounted and in baskets but kept well watered in the summer and damp in the winter
In common with other red and orange cattleyas this species is pollinated by hummingbirds. The bright orange flowers glow out in our winter greenhouse and the same must be true in its natural habitat – a species well worth growing.
This heavy flowered species is new to 365 days and we have been eagerly anticipating the flowers since the spikes appeared before Christmas.
This species is native to warm forests in Ecuador and we have seen similar Acinetia species in Costa Rica growing as massive epiphytes in the lower branches of large trees on the lower slopes of Poaz Volcano.
the plant itself is a monster with 60cm long leaves from large ridged pseudo bulbs. The plant has 6 spikes that will flower over the next 4 weeks or so. We grow the species in a large basket in our warm Americas section and water it heavily during the growing season in our summer.