Lepanthopsis astrophora – 365 days of orchids – day 1549

This is one of our iconic miniatures. Lepanthopsis astrophora has leaves less than 1cm long and relatively long spikes of tiny flowers each of which is a perfect purple star (hence the name). The flowers are long lasting and the species is in flower for most of the year although this month plants are looking particularly good with clouds of the tiny purple flowers

The species is native to cloud forests in Venezuela and we find it succeeds mounted in a shady spot and sprayed daily. It is a good idea to keep a magnifying glass handy so that visitors can wonder at the lovely little flowers.

The plant shown has 44 flower spikes in flower or in bud – not bad for an orchid on a cork mount 5cmx3cm. The species is a real favourite of our orchid project students.

Caitline says “It would make a great badge”, Tallis suggests “or a fascinator”, while according to Harris ‘It looks like a fleet of alien spaceships in a sci-fi movie.”

I think that they are all correct, a lovely little plant with a good name.



Bulbophyllum lilacium – 365 days of orchids – day 1548

This wonderful orchid species is a great reminder of our visits to Laos and the wonderful Bulbophyllums of South East Asia.

We came across Bulbophyllum lilacium on our first visit to Laos in 2005 with it’s distinct habit of bulbs separated by a long rhizome that let the plant wrap itself around the trunks of large trees and finally in 2011 we found it in flower in open regrowth forest near Paksong (see photo below)

The arching dense flowers are really attractive and are pinky (the name means lilac bulbophyllum). The plant here is growing in good light at 1000m altitude where it experiences warm wet summers, cool dry winters and a hot dry spring. We find that our seedling of the species has flourished in our Warm Asia section and now flowers every year.

As a young plant with small bulbs the rhizome between bulbs was very small but now that it is mature it has shown its true character by growing each new bulb several cm from the last bulb and promptly rooting itself firmly to any other plants in the vicinity.  We now have three bulbophyllum species growing together which often happens in the forests around Paksong too.

We need to find a mount similar to the trunk of the tree we found the species living on in Loas!


Easthill Field, Frome, is saved from development

Those of us campaigning to save this wonderful five acres of ancient parkland/ wood pasture, on the edge of Frome, are celebrating the announcement today that Mendip District Councils controlling Liberal group have decided to drop proposals for housing on the site. Thanks for all those who have supported the campaign for the continuing futures of amazing plants and animals of the site.

Walking around the field today, the star plant was Viola odorata (Sweet Violet), in both a dark violet form and a lilac form. (below)

There will be more news from Easthill in the future, but for now it is worth noting that our slogan of “Save the World One Field at a Time” still holds true. We (Friends of Easthill) would be happy to share strategies with others fighting in the UK and the World to save their own wild places for our irreplaceable shared biodiversity.



Schonburgkia splendida – 365 days of orchids – day 1547

Schomburgkia is a genus related to Cattleya, and includes a number of large growing plants with impressive spikes of unusual flowers. As you can see Schomburgkia splendida is a large growing plant with flower spikes a metre long that are topped by a closely packed group of 20-30 flowers.

Schomburgkia splendida is native to Ecuador and Colombia where it grows on trees and rocks in dryish forests around 600- 1000m. The unusually twisted flowers are produced in a starburst at the end of the spike and really demand close inspection. From a distance the brown flowers look to be old, dried up and dead, and one wonders whether this is an adaptation to avoid being eaten by grazing animals.

We grow the species in open compost in a mushroom crate high in our Warm Americas section where it experiences a suitably warm and bright environment and provides shade for other species below.

The only real challenge with the species is getting it down from the roof to photograph for this post. Fortunately Harris is very tall and as well as lifting it down he pollinated several flowers, so hopefully we will have seedlings in a couple of years.