Maxillaria tenuifolia – 365 days of orchids – day 1607

We have just had our film star orchids return from the BBC Green Planet team (photo below) and amongst them this fragrant species from Central America was still in full flower.

We have seen the species in the wild in Guatemala growing in dryish lowland forest. We found it mostly on the trunks of trees or on lower branches where it has some shade even though the forest is open and trees are semi-deciduous. It is locally called the coconut orchid as it produces a powerful fragrance which is unmistakably coconut.

The plant has an ascending habit with a rhizome that grows bulbs progressively upwards which can make potting inconvenient and we grow plants mounted or in baskets in our Warm Americas section (min 15C) but ensure that it has more shade than most of the plants in that section under some permanent additional shade net.


Extending flowering periods

This wonderful plant of Dendrobium aphyllum has just started flowering in the roof of our cool Americas section (min 12C) where it has spent the winter. It is interesting to note that the plants of Dendrobium aphyllum that we moved back to their Warm Asia Section home (min 17) in February flowered back on April 5th (photo below) showing that flowering can be controlled by a month or so with lower or higher temperatures. This is useful for shows but is also reflected in the wild where we have seed Dendrobium aphyllum in Sikkim at Easter – in full flower at 300m altitude and in tight bud at 600m altitude.

The photo below shows the species in situ in Sikkim


Cleisostoma merrillium- 365 days of orchids – day 1607

One of our passions is the special relationship between orchid species and their pollinators. We are delighted that the Bristol aquarium is open to visitors again and will be working with our partners again this summer to further develop the orchid pollinator display. We have heard that the wooden ant pollinator has gone missing so we will be back on the laser cutter to make replacements.

By coincidence, today’s orchid of the day is one of our favourite ant pollinated orchids.

This remarkable orchid is endemic to Mount Kinabalu where it grows in wet evergreen forest above 1000m. The species has striking greyish, blue flowers with a purple anther cap and field observations show that the flowers are ant pollinated which explains the clustered flowers on very short spikes.

We grow the species in small baskets from which the plants grow in a relaxed upright fashion. Plants seem very at home in our Warm Asia section with a minimum of 17C with some shade, throughout the year, amongst other species native to the amazing forests of Kinabalu.


Dendrobium chrysocrepsis- 365 days of orchids – day 1606

This unusual and rather understated dendrobium species has been in flower for over a month but has been trumped by other species until today.

Dendrobium chrysocrepsis is native to South East Asia and is unusual for both its slipper shaped lip and flat cross section of the spreading pseudobulbs. It has the common name of Golden Slipper Dendrobium. The species grows at 1400m and usually as a lithophyte on limestone rocks, a habitat we have explored in Southern Laos. It produces flowers in ones and twos from older pseudobulbs.

We grow the species mounted but it also enjoys pots until it spreads away from them and takes root in neighbouring pots.

The plant has a spreading habit with regular keikis and this week we will be propagating some of these and increase the golden slippers in our Warm Asia section.



Polystachya vulcanica – 365 days of orchids – day 1605

Appropriately, we have a small growing species native to Rwanda Today. We are delighted to be working closely with our Rwandan partners at FAWE school Kigali this year, both in relation to our world orchid congress joint projects, and science and technology projects.

Polystachya is a common genus amongst African orchids and we have seen species in South African woodland as well as  Rwanda. As its name suggests, Polystachya vulcanica comes from the volcanic mountains of Rwanda, Uganda and Zaire (it doesn’t come from Vulcan!)

It lives in high altitude mossy forest similar to that we found on the upper slopes of Mount Bigugu in Rwanda. This is the highest point in Nyungwe national park at 3000m and the orchid is found from 1600-3000m. This habitat is very similar to South American cloud forests and so we grow the species in Cool Americas where we keep it moist and shaded all year.

Like most Polystachyas the species holds its flowers upside down (non-resupinate) and this flower is photographed from below to show the lovely colour combination. Flower spikes are produced in profusion and each produces sequential individual flowers over a period of months during the summer. Each flower stems produce several flowers over the summer months.

Let me take this opportunity to wish our friends in Africa all the best during our continuing shared times of challenge, and look forward to working together face to face in the near future.