Myrmecophila humboldtii – 365 days of orchids – day 1983

This species is a July regular in the greenhouse.

Like its close relative Myrmecophyila tibicinis, Myrmecophila humboldtii has long spikes (this one is 1.2m long) with large flowers towards the top that open sequentially. The flowers have a sweet fragrance and sugary liquid around the buds presumably to feed the ants with which the plant associates.

We have seen lots of Myrmecophila tibicinis growing in Central America but Myrmecophila humboldtii is found in Venezuela and nearby islands (the Netherland Antilles). The species is native to hot drying lowland forests near the coast and we replicate these conditions by hanging the plant high in our Warm Americas section in a basket of course bark. The plant is then very little trouble apart from the need to drop it lower when it flowers to allow for the length of the spike.


Maxillaria preastans – 365 days of orchids – day 1982


We happily describe Maxillaria preastans as our moist reliable maxillaria. The species from Mexico and Central America is found between 1500 and 2000m altitude in humid evergreen forest and we find that it grows well both cool in Cool Americas (min 12C) and warm in Warm Americas (min 15C) as long as it is kept well watered throughout the year.

Single flowers are produced from the base of bulbs in summer and are large and showy with a distinctive black lip. Several flowers are produced from each bulb over a period of a few months making this a straight forward and rewarding species to grow. The flowers are long lasting and ensure a point of interest in the summer greenhouse.

We have noticed that wasps find our flowers particularly attractive and in the autumn when wasps become more common in the greenhouse several flowers get pollinated.


Masdevallia pyxis – 365 days of orchids – day 1981

Summer is the time when Masdevallia pyxis can be relied upon to be in flower.

This is a small sized Masdevallia native to Peru that grows in cool forest around 2300m altitude where it grows as an epiphyte of lithophyte. It has thick rounded leaves and the flowers are produced in profusion on stems much shorter than the leaves. The colouring is similar to Masdevallia oreas and several other masdevallia species but each has their own character and we are very fond of pyxis because of its vigorous growth habit and cute little flowers.

We find that growing the species mounted or in a small basket shows of the flowers to their best but it grows very well in a small pot. We find that it works well to stand the pot on something that allows you to see under the leaves.



Odontoglossum multistellare- 365 days of orchids – day 1980

Our orchid project students were the stars earlier in the week working with Dr David Roberts from Kent University, but today it this South American orchid species that is the star.

Odontoglossum multistellare certainly lives up to its name and every summer produces branched spikes of attractive, star shaped, flowers, and a small plant produces a lot of flower for its size. Our largest plant shown above has 300 flowers this year.

Odontoglossum multistllare is a cool growing species found in cloud forests at around 2000m altitude from Ecuador to Peru, and we grow our odontogloissums in baskets hanging in cool Americas (min 12C). The target to achieve really good plants seems to be to grow health roots and then keep the roots alive for years – this allows plants to make large bulbs that reward us with long spikes of these graceful flowers. Heavily watered baskets and a very open bark compost seems seems best for good root development in our conditions.


Stelis itatiayae – 365 days of orchids – day 1980


We have another Brazilian Stelis species to follow Stelis thermophylla. A miniature species with a big impact. The plant shown is in a 10cm basket and leaves up to 5cm. the flower spikes are 10cm long with 20 flowers each.

Stelis itatiayae is native to the forests that follow the East Coast of Brazil – the Mata Atlantica.

It was during our first expedition to Brazil in 2000 that we made first contact with stelis species and this is one of the species found in the Mata Atlantica around our base in Macae de Cima. The habitat here is cool, wet, forest and Stelis itatiayae is found growing from 900-1400m in the low trunk area on trees, and so the species enjoys good humidity, and we find it loves a shady spot in Cool Americas (min 12C) and lots of water.

I do feel that we are very lucky to have explored so many orchid habitats on school expeditions. It is no surprise that standing at the foot of a tree full of a favourite orchid species flowering is a great help in understanding how to grow orchids well.