Cattleya coccinea (Sophronitis coccinea) – 365 days of orchids – day 1109

Happy New Year – 2020 has started well in the School Greenhouse with our first Cattleya coccinea flower of the season opening on one of our seed grown mounted plants. A perfect species to start our fourth year of 365 days of orchids.

This wonderful small growing species with large flowers is the classic hummingbird pollinated orchid with its startling scarlet flowers held clear of the 5cm leaves. This is one of our top ten orchids and always transports me back to the cloud forests of Brazil. I will take the opportunity of again posting photographs of the species flowering in the wild on our 2001 and 2006 expeditions to Macae de Cima.

As the photos show, we found Cattleya coccinea growing as an epiphyte in mossy cloud forests in the Organ Mountains, and the plants here are at around 1200m altitude. Plants were mostly growing in exposed positions where they receive good light, frequent mists, good air movement and cool temperatures. During our visits temperatures were around 12C at night and 22C during the day. It was very noticeable that the forest was dripping every morning from the mists and dew.

New growths have a single leaf that becomes purple in bright sunlight and the flowers are produced from immature growths. The flowers are pollinated by humming birds and are variable in size, shape and colour. Some flowers are rounder, some more angular, and some have considerable yellow on the lip and petals.

This does not seem to be the easiest plant to grow but he challenge is to replicate the plants natural conditions – Cool, wet, bright and windy. It is definitely worth the trouble and the plant flowering today in the greenhouse is growing mounted high in our Cool Americas Section but in a spot that is easy to water so that we can soak it most days. The plant has four buds so I will post it again when in full flower.


Cattleya percivaliana – 365 days of orchids – day 1108

1107 days ago on 1st January 2017 we posted our first orchid of the day, and three years later we are finishing the year with the same species, Cattleya percevaliana. It is a special day as the first of the C. percivaliana seedlings we have been growing for eight years has flowered, and joins our adult plants.

Many of the uni-foliate (one leaved) Cattleya species look superficially similar but we find that one of the clearest distinctions is flowering time, and this species always flowers at the turning of the year. C. percivaliana is also identifiable by the single sheath, the short (15cm) flattened pseudobulbs, and by the unusual rather deep and circular markings on the lip.

Cattleya percivaliana is endemic to Venezuela where it is found as an epiphyte and on rocks from 1400-2000m altitude in good light. We grow the species in Warm Americas and hang plants in baskets above the door where plants produce copious roots that hang down from the basket.

The species looks as sumptuous today as it did on day 1 of 365 days of orchids. We hope you have a sumptuous New Year’s Eve to match.


Mediocalcar decoratum – 365 days of orchids – day 1108


It is lovely to hear from people who have purchased plants from us, and this week we have heard from two growers, who like us, have this lovely miniature species flowering over Christmas.

The delicate little flowers of Mediocalcar decoratum are very unlike any other species we grow and it is always lovely when the little orange buds burst each winter. It is a species that several students grow successfully at home.

The species comes from Papua New Guinea where it grows in shady forest up to 2500m. Mediocalcar decoratum’s small bell shaped flowers in orange and yellow suggest that the likely pollinator is Sun Birds. Sun Bird’s are Africa and Asia’s version of South America’s Humming Birds and we saw some lovely species in Rwanda.

Although this is a cool growing Asian species its habitat in Papua New Guinea is very similar to the cloud forests of the Americas as so we grow plants in our Cool Americas section.

We grow all our plants mounted which suits the plants habit and plants flourish as long as protected from strong sun in the summer which dries plants too much.


Masdevallia superbiens – 365 days of orchids – day 1107

After 12 months it is possible to forget just how spectacular an orchid species is and yesterday I was freshly astounded by this well named Masdevallia. Some orchid species are very strongly seasonal and this species, that has just come into flower, we last posted on Dec 28th 2018!

Most masdevallias produce one flower per stem but some like M. superbiens produce many flowers on each spike. The remarkable flowers of this species with purple spots on a white ground and orange/yellow tails on each sepal make it rather special.

The species is native to Ecuador and Bolivia at around 2800m in cool wet forest. We find that plants are happiest in baskets where they are well watered but free draining. Plants are medium sized for a masdevallia with broad 12cm leaves and taller spikes that hold the long lasting flowers well clear of the plant.

I am really please top see that plants divided last summer are doing well so check our sales table at the London Orchid Show in April.


Barkeria whartoniana – 365 days of orchids – day 1106

Today’s orchid of the day is a wonderful species from Mexico. We divided our specimen plant a couple of years ago and now we have these lovely spikes of pink flowers dotted  around the greenhouses.

This smaller flowered Barkeria joins the other Barkeria speices still flowering in our Warm Americas section; Barkeria skinneri and Barkeria lindleyana (below)

Barkeria whartoniana is native to Oaxaca state, Mexico, where it grows in dry deciduous forest either as an epiphyte of on rocks . As a result it produces masses of thick roots that resent being surrounded by damp compost and prefer being exposed to the air. We grow plants mounted and hanging in our Warm Americas Section (min 15C) where plants are exposed lots of air. Plants produce thin stems about 30cm long with lush but short-lived leaves and then a branching flower spike that adds a further 80cm to the growth. Plants are semi deciduous and leaves are only remaining on this year’s growth. We find that plants prefer some shade unlike other Barkerias that enjoy bright sun.

With us, Barkeria whartoniana starts to flower in December and will still be flowering in March. New growth follow flowering and we water plants every day when in growth but less often during the winter.