365 days of orchids – day 307 – Oncidium ornithorhynchum


This species smells strongly of chocolate and so is very popular at school. When grown well it produces several spikes of long lasting flowers from each pseudobulb and so a great little display. It also flowers when quite a small seedling and so is a rewarding plant to grow from seed.

The species is native to Central America where it grows in humid forests up to 1500m altitude and though it seems not to be fussy about temperatures it does best for us in our Cool Americas Section. This plant is mounted on an old piece of Elder but it does well for us mounted or in pots.

There is considerable variation in flower colour from deep to very light pink and we rather like this deep pink clone and will be raising seed from it again this year.

This species has been used in breeding hybrids which also have the delicious chocolate scent.




365 days of orchids – day 306 – Masdevallia mendozae

This is a close relative of Masdevallia hirtzii (day 303) and is endemic to Ecuador. This species also has tubular orange flowers pollinated by humming birds and is a miniature species with 4cm leaves.

The flowers have a really unusual shape with their bent tubes and small openings and a well grown plant will flower for many months. The photo shows buds in various stages of development as well as the open flowers. I expect this plant to still be in flower next February.

This species seems quite tough for a miniature masdevallia and has much thicker leaves than Masdevallia hirtzii making this it much more tolerant of summer heat and dry periods. We find this species does best in a small mossy basket.



365 days of orchids – day 305 – Barbosella cogniauxiana

This is our third barbosella species and this is intermediate in size between B. australis and B.dusenii (days 230 and 245). We have several plants of this species that all come from a flask of seedlings from Equatorial Plants purchased in 2001 after our first visit to Brazil with the Rio Atlantic Forest Trust.

We were fortunate to see this species clothing the lower branches of tall trees in primary forest at around 1200m altitude (actually fallen branches from the tall trees because a tiny orchid is quite hard to spot in the tops of tall trees)

The species is slow to spread and the ball shown here has a diameter of 15cm but is still on the mount it was attached to in 2001 (sixteen years ago). Each November it produces a fantastic display as it flowers from older sections of growth as well as the last years growth.

The colour of the flowers is variable with some more yellow like this one and others more brown or green. The flowers are very similar to Barbosella australis (day 230) but this species always flowers later in the year and the growth habit is tighter and smaller. We have successfully split one large plant and so will have some of these for sale at next year’s shows.

We only grow this species mounted as we find it is out competed by moss when in pots. Another view of the plant is shown below.


365 days of orchids – day 304 – Coelogyne barbata


Barbata means ‘bearded’ and the bearded coelogyne is a truly spectacular thing. This plant has been growing in Cool Asia since 1998 and is rapidly becoming a specimen plant. This year there are eleven spikes each with about ten large flowers. The dark brown ‘beard’ on the lip is probably an evolutionary adaption to limit access to just one species of bee to increase the chances of successful cross pollination.

The plant grows in a large basket and is kept wet in the summer and damp in the winter to reflect the habitat which is wet evergreen monsoon forest from Nepal to Southern China. We haven’t seen this species in Sikkim but we have visited the habitat (1000-1800m) where coelogynes are abundant.

We have just sown seed from flowers pollinated in November 2016 and there are still seed pods on the plant. This is a reminder of the time taken to grow orchids from seed – one year from pollination to sowing, two years in-vitro and then between three and eight years growing to big enough to flower – well worth the wait though.


365 days of orchids – day 303 – Masdevallia hirtzii

This small growing Masdevallia species is found in cloud forests in Ecuador and Peru from 1200-1550m altitude and so is well suited to conditions in our Cool Americas section (min 12C) where it grows in a basket that is kept well watered throughout the year and shaded.

This is one of a charming group of small orange masdevallias with tubular flowers evolved for pollination by humming birds but we find that the flowers are also very good at attracting people!

The leaves are light green and quite thin, which to us indicates a need for constant dampness, and 5cm long with the flowers produced well clear of the leaves which looks great and is necessary for bird pollination.