Spring really seams to have arrived this week with a warm afternoons in the greenhouse and the annual display from Dendrobium fimbriatum starting in Warm Asia.
Dendrobium fimbriatum is an orchid we have seen growing abundantly in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in semi-deciduous trees in warm lowland forests up to about 1000m. In the wild it makes large dramatic specimens just like this one in our Warm Asia section.
The photos above show it flowering a tree next to the main road to Gangtok not far from the River Teesta at about 400m above sea level (It is in the centre of the photo half way up the middle tree). The habitat here is semi evergreen forest with a distinct dry season.
Flowers are produced in small sprays of about ten flowers from along the leafless pseudobulbs from two to five years old (so don’t cut off old bulbs until they are completely dead). Its native habitat is warm and wet in the summer but distinctly dryer in the winter with a significant drop in temperature from the summer and so we find the species responds well to moving to our Cool Asia section (minimum 10C) for a few weeks in January before moving back to its normal spot in Warm Asia (minimum 17C) where it then flowers.
In Sikkim we have noticed that large plants collect a lot of dead leaves in their crowns which presumably provide additional nutrient to plants and we find that the species responds well to lots of feed and water in the summer and quickly grows long pseudobulbs. The thin leaves of the species are attractive to red spider mite and scale insects so keep an eye out for pests.
This small growing vandaceous species is new to 365 days. Unlike Renthera imschootiana which is wonderful but enormous (photo below), Renanthera monachica flowers as a small plant and takes a long time to develop in a mature medium sized plant. So this is a renanthera for small spaces.
We grow Renanthera monochica in a basket hanging high in the roof of our Warm Asia section (minimun 17C) where it gets plenty of light and dries out between waterings. The species is endemic to the island of Luzon where it grows in hot lowland forest up to 500m altitude. The flowers look fragile but are very long lasting and mature plants produce branched spikes. Different clones are quite varied in colour and spotting making this a species to look out for if you have the right conditions.
Our Warm Asia section is currently filled with the delicious scent of this giant Vanda species.
The plant is now over 2m tall with large flower spikes of beautiful waxy flowers, and a heady sweet scent.
This grand orchid is native to lowland forest in Java and is clearly determined to become a giant orchid over time. The plant produces stiff alternate leaves 30cm long.
The plant is loving life in Warm Asia and has two new growths coming near the base an so will become a multi-stemmed plant over time.
Sometimes this plant is listed as a the species Vanda suavis, separate from the other form of Vanda tricolor (also found in Java) which has fewer, rounder flowers, but we will follow theplantlist.org in our labelling.
It is usual at this time of year to have some exciting miniatures com ing into flower. This is especially true of miniatures from the cloud forests of South and Central America. Look out for Platystele misasiana and Stelis muscifera later in the month (below), but today we have Pleurothallis grobyi.
Pleurothallis grobyi is a species recorded from as far North as Mexico and as far south as Peru and Brazil. The clone we have here in cultivation originates from Ecuador but we have seen different forms of the species in Brazil, Belize and Guatemala. We have found the species in both mountain cloud forest and shaded spots in hot lowland forest and so this is a very variable species or possibly one that should be spilt into several separate species.
The diversity is shown by some of the plants we found growing in Brazilian cloud forests around Macae de Cima in 2005. These included dark yellow striped forms, creamy forms and white forms.
All of the plants we found were growing in primary forest in shade with abundant moss growing around them suggesting that plants appreciate being grown wet and shaded in cultivation. We grow plants mounted on cork, in baskets and in pots and they succeed grown all of these ways with daily watering in Cool Americas.The picture below shows Callum Swift with a plant he found on a fallen branch that shows the conditions the plant grows in perfectly.
The plants we have found in lowland forests in Guatemala and Belize are restricted to mossy patches on dead fallen trees and branches and so are growing heavily shaded and much damper that the surrounding forest. The plants here also had shorter rounder leaves and white and pink flowers. (Below)
Whichever the form, this is definitely a species to look out for.
As I have mentioned previously, we are very fortunate to live close to remnant patches of the Mendip Great Wood, on of England’s last ancient forests, and Asham Woods is the biggest patch. The wonderful display of native daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) in early March should not be missed. This year it seems the plants seem more abundant than ever. Native daffodils are smaller and much more delicate than the garden hybrids, and were once one of our most common wild flowers. Sadly, they have become a very rare sight, and need searching for. Seeing them in their splendour in this ancient oak and hazel coppice is makes the searching worthwhile.
While in Asham Woods looking for daffodils I couldn’t help checking on the local orchid populations.
The rosettes of Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) (above) are coming on well, and the flower spikes are just starting to show on Early Purple Orchids (Orchis mascula) amongst the bluebells they will flower with. (below)
Here’s looking forward to enjoying the UK’s native orchids flowering from April until October.