Zoe Barnes – Ist Class Honours degree from Plymouth University

Orchid Project followers are always asking about students who have left school and I am delighted to pass on the news that Zoe Barnes has just graduated from Plymouth University with a first in Environmental Sciences. It seems that she spent most of her final year under water (she is now a passionate diver) with her final year project investigating toxic metals leaching from underwater artificial structures.

Zoe was a key member of Orchid Project from year 7, during which she went to South Africa and ran microprop workshops for botanic garden staff at the BGCI Conference in Durban (Below) where she found her first epiphytic orchid in flower – this Polystachya sandersonii.

In year 11 Zoe was on our expeditions to Sikkim – seen here with Coelogyne cristata near Tinkitam

Her research team won the National Science and Engineering prize that year for their research on microhabitats in Sikkim (below)

Before heading to Rwanda – Three times including a five month stint after A levels to work on the project at KCCEM and FAWE School


This photo shows Zoe with fellow student Heather, who is now working on Conservation in South Africa, and a Mountain Gorilla (The Gorilla is the one not wearing a hat!)

It is a treat as a teacher to see young people grow into wonderful people, congratulations Zoe.




Stelis emarginata ‘yellow’ – 365 days of orchids – day 1304

Stelis emarginata is a very variable species and we have three very distinct clones. We recently posted our clone ‘big orange’ (below) and today we have our yellow clone

As you can see the yellow clone has smaller flowers but longer spikes and both clones are very floriferous.

Stelis emarginata is native to Central America where it grows from 1800m to 3500m in cool forests both wet and not so wet which explains why this species is straight forward in cultivation. We grow the species in Cool Americas where the orange clone flowers in spring, the yellow clone flowers in Summer and the small orange clone in the autumn – perfect.


Stelis thermophyla – 365 days of orchids – day 1303

We have several show stoppers in the greenhouse this week – what a shame there aren’t any shows. The World Orchid Congress in Taiwan has been rescheduled for the end of April 2021 but it is much to early for us to consider what our involvement will be.

This stunning stelis is a small growing floriferous species from Brazil. Every summer plants are smothered in delicate pinky brown flowers in charming upright spikes.

Stelis thermophila is native to coastal forests in Brazil where it grows in warm wet forests at lower altitudes than most of our Stelis species that are cool cloud forest specialists (hence the name thermophyla meaning warm growing). Despite this we find the species is very happy in our Cool America section where we grow it mounted and in pots alongside similar species, but confident that it will not mind warm days in the greenhouse. We have had the species since the 1990s and find it trouble free and reliable.

In our expeditions to Brazil we have been captivated by the stelis species we have seen flowering in the wild. They are a wonderful example of small plants with tiny flowers putting on a great display and Stelis have become a key component of the Writhlington collection over time.


Stanhopea graveolens – 365 days of orchids – day 1302

Students gave a zoom tour of the greenhouses today for our Sarawak orchid Society and this Stanhopea species was one of the highpoint with its wonderfully fragrant large flowers. Like all our Stanhopea species the flowers are produced on dramatic pendulous spikes that keep the flowers well clear of the leaves and bulbs. The flowers last for a few days but while they are out they are magnificent and once they reach a good size they produce several spikes that give flowers over several weeks.

Stanhopes graveolens is a Central American species. We have seen related species in Costa Rica growing in wet evergreen forest around 1000m. This gives something of a challenge in cultivation as the plants must be in baskets so that the downward growing flower spikes emerge safely but baskets easily dry out especially when hung up high in the roof. Our solution is to hand the plants relatively low down in the greenhouse – at around bench hight – so that they are well watered and then hang them up higher when they flower so that the flowers are at nose height.

The wonderful scents are to attract euglossine bees (as do Gongoras). The males collect the perfume oils from the flowers and then use them in their display to attract females.

We find that stanhopeas are straight forward to grow form seed in our lab, and we will be adding our first Stanhopea species to the online shop tomorrow, including mature seedlings and seedlings in-vitro, for those who want to give these spectacular summer flowering orchids a try.


Successful meeting with Sarawak partners

Thanks to the wonders of technology we are able to stay in close contact with our partners in Sarawak. Orchid project students gave a tour of the greenhouses and lab, and we we able to spend lots of time discussing progress in the MRSM propagation lab in Kuching. A massive thank you to SARORSO (Sarawak Orchid Society) members and UK students for a really productive morning I am sure that this will be the first of many.