Yesterday morning at 7.30am the weather station told me that the outdoor temperature was -3.8 degrees C when I arrived at School. Fortunately it was much warmer inside the greenhouse, and this species brought back lovely memories of our 2019 visit to Sarawak where we saw this species growing in lowland forest near the coast at Bako National Park(below)
We arrived at Bako by boat and waded ashore (below) You can see the forest home of Cleisostoma subulatum at the top of the beach.
The forest at Bako was quite open but Cleisostoma subulatum was growing low down on tree trunks and lower branches in shade. Cleisostoma is a lovely genus and plants have very diverse leaves but very similar flowers. The flowers all have their spurs protruding from their buds well before they open.
Cleisostoma subulatum is a medium sized plant that can grow really large over time, as some of the plants at Bako had, with long pendulous spikes of small flowers that open successively. The species is found from Sikkim in the Himalayas through South east Asia to Malaysia and the Philippines where it grows as an epiphyte in lowland forest up to 500m altutide.
Watering the greenhouse I could almost feel the warm waters of the South China Sea lapping around my feet – The illusion quickly vanished when I stepped outside into the January frost brrrrrrrrrr
Pleurothallis pellucida is native to Ecuador where it grows it scrub forest at around 3000m where it will experience cool misty conditions. We find that the species is a rewarding and straight forward species is kept well watered and shaded in the summer. The species in notable for its elegant stems and leaves to about 40cm that each winter develop long slender spikes of up to 50 closely packed 3mm flowers. The species is named for its ‘transparent’ flowers but they do have a delicate yellow to them and they contrast well against the dark green leaves.
Regulars will note that we have a number of taller pleutothallis species similar to this Pleurothallis that we find rewarding, free flowering and an great addition to our collection. It has been interesting talking to orchid growers, at shows, from warmer climates than the UK (growers from Italy, Spain, Borneo) who are rather envious of the ease with which we can grow these cool mountain orchids in the UK – Remember that when you go for a walk in the freezing weather today!
The world will be pleased to know that the orchid science and propagation skills developed with the orchid project are being put to good use as I lead the Mass Testing programme at Mendip Studio School – Stay safe and keep negative 🙂
No diverse week of orchids would be complete without a bulbophyllum and this species is a real crowd pleaser.
Bulbophyllum stormii is native to Malaysia and is found from 1000-2000m altitude and we find that it enjoys warm shady conditions in our Warm Asia section (min 17C)
Flowers are 4cm across and very large relative to the size of the plant with its single 2cm leaves and tiny pseudobulbs. We grow the species mounted and it scrambles around forming a mat or ball of plant over time. This species is attractive when not in flower because of the grey green soft leaves.
We showed how we mount plants like this in a previous post here if you are interested.
England enters a new full lockdown today but our orchids seem oblivious and rather than hiding away are flamboyantly showing off their flowers – a real tonic in tough times. Saying that, todays orchid is grown more for its attractive leaves than its flowers.
Most of the orchids we grow at school are epiphytes (grow on trees) but this Jewel orchid is a terrestrial (grows in the ground) and is quite commonly available. Jewel orchids include a large number of terrestrial orchids prized for their patterned leaves although several, like this species, have attractive flowers too.
Ludisia discolor is native to evergreen lowland forests across South East Asia and is reported from 70-1100m in shaded damp situations in leaf litter (growing in the ground often does not mean growing in soil). As a result plants prefer warm shaded conditions and plenty of water. We have seen advice to grow plants in potting compost but we use our standard bark mix with a little sphagnum moss. The secret to good growth is finding a really dark spot and for our plants this is on a north facing wall where plants get virtually no direct sunlight at all.
Several jewel orchids are threatened by unsustainable collection for horticulture so sources should be checked carefully but Ludisia discolor is very easy from seed in the lab and plants in cultivation in the uk are seed raised.