We are preparing for one of our favourite weekends in the calendar. From 10-5 next Saturday and Sunday the Bristol University Botanic Garden will be a ‘buzz’ with people and activities including students from the orchid project introducing the public to the amazing stories of orchids and their diverse pollinators.
We generally have less orchids in flower in the summer than other times of the year as most species are in the middle of their growing season. It is therefore great to have some species in the collection that flower throughout the year. One species that is always in flower in the greenhouse is Epidendrum radicans. This is a very unruly plant that grows long canes up to 2m long with terminal flower spikes, however the flower spikes continue to produce flowers for more than twelve months and at any time they carry 10-15 really attractive flowers that are bright scarlet.
We have seen the species growing in Costa Rica in wet secondary forest at around 1400m altitude where the plant starts life at or near the ground and then scrambles up through the scrub. It has an interesting habit of developing twisting flower spikes that cling onto surrounding plants both in the wild and in cultivation. The flower spike shown here is well away from the pot it was once in and provides an unexpected and welcome burst of colour amongst neighbouring plants.
The species is butterfly pollinated.
We have a number of very attractive species that are found labelled either Odontoglossum or Oncidium and we have adopted the approach of the International Odontoglossum Alliance and relabelled ours as Odontoglossums.
Odontoglossum multistelare is a cool growing species found in cloud forests at around 2000m altitude from Ecuador to Peru. The plant produces branched spikes of attractive flowers each summer and a small plant produces a lot of flower for its size.
Some names are better than others and multistellare meaning many starred seems a good choice for this species.
We have one of our favourite species in flower at the moment, a species that reminds us of the forests of South and Central America.
Pleurothallis grobyi is a delightful miniature 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 whitand pink flowers. (Below)
Whichever the form, this is definitely a species to look out for.
We have featured a number of miniature phalaenopsis species and this is one of the most dramatic.
This miniature Phalaenopsis species is native to the Philippines and Southern Taiwan where it is reported growing as an epiphyte in lowland forest near streams.
The small flowers are produced on arching spikes that continue to grow for several months with successive flowers each lasting about a month.
This plant was deflasked about six years ago and grows very happily indoors where it flowers every year and grows in a small china coffee cup (with drainage holes drilled with a diamond drill bit)
It’s habitat suggests a need for constant warm temperatures and so we find the greenhouse a little cool in winter but a centrally heated house perfect.