Orchid Project Students work with Dr Roberts

We have had a wonderful day in the Mendip Orchid Labs today where we have been joined by Dr David Roberts from Kent University.

Dr Roberts has been working with Orchid Project students since 2004, both in his previous role at Kew and his current role leading the Wildlife Conservation Degree at Kent University, and today joined Year 10 and Year 11 students to learn orchid propagation skills.

More joint projects are in the pipeline especially focussed on conservation research.


Stelis thermophila – 365 days of orchids – day 1979

Our star orchid this week is our specimen plant of Stelis thermophyla.

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.


Dendrobium crumenatum – 365 days of orchids – day 1978

It is a Pigeon Orchid day here in the greenhouse. Lovely white flowers with a yellow blotch on the lip – but only for one day.

Dendrubium crumenatum (or the pidgeon orchid) is a well known and interesting orchid from South East Asia and a very common city tree in Kuching, Sarawak.

Our plant is now mature with pseudobulbs/flower spikes reaching out over a metre from the basket. It is well documented that plants flower a while after a period of heavy rain, and the flowers that open together just last a day. As a result it is always a lovely surprise when we find our plant covered in flowers, and we make the most of it while we can. The plant makes up for its short lived flowers by flowering several times every year.

We grow the plant high in our warm asia section so that it gets as warm an environment as we can manage. Remember not to cut of flower spikes as they re-flower for several years. We get a flowering every few months.


Masdevallia paiveana – 365 days of orchids – day 1978

Masdevallia paiveana is a lovely species native to Peru and Bolivia where it is found as an epiphyte in cool wet woodland around 2500m altitude. The flowers are produced throughout the year and very pretty with pink hairs on white sepals.

We have two distinct clones of the species. This clone (above) forms a neat little plant with 7cm leaves and attractive flowers produced on and off throughout the year. The second clone is even more hairy but with otherwise identical flowers (below) but is a much more vigorous plant with larger leaves.

Plants have a scrambling habit and as a strong grower and soon forms a large plant.

We find that the first clone does well in a small pot or a basket, where as the second clone does much better in a basket to suit its scrambling habit.



Masdevallia ludibundella – 365 days of orchids – day 1977

We haven’t featured this wonderful little masdevallia species since 2019 which seems very remiss of us.

Masdevallia ludibundella is a miniature masdevallia with large dramatic flowers. The species comes from Colombia and enjoys the cool wet conditions that most of our masdevallias enjoy in the Cool Americas section of the greenhouse.

The flowers are long lasting and held well clear of the leaves. Given conditions it likes the plant multiplies but is quite slow to make specimen plants.

We grow the species mounted and in pots. As long as it is kept well watered it doesn’t seem to worry.