This Christmas Issy is offering something new – an Orchid in a Bauble. The idea is part of her STEM BTEC (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and she has been selling glass baubles containing the amazing miniature orchid Lepanthopsis prolifera growing on sphagnum moss.
Lepanthosis prolifera is a tiny flowered species, endemic to North Eastern Colombia, that arrived in the school greenhouses as a ‘weed’ on Pleurothallis sclerophylla and has since expanded into a ball and produced many offspring.
The flowers are produced in sprays on a 1cm spike and usually line up back to back so that flowers look two ways. The plant is in flower for much of the year but I am sorry to say we often forget it because the flowers are so small.
From our experience this miniature is easy to grow and should do well in the bauble. It should be watered about once a week (a pipette is ideal) with rainwater and a little feed in the summer. We grow our plants shaded at school and the bauble is best positioned in a bright but not sunny spot once it comes off the Christmas tree.
This cattleya species from Brazil was considered a natural hybrid from its discovery and first description in 1874. It was found growing with Cattleya walkeriana and was thought to be Cattleya walkeriana x Cattleya loddigessii or similar. Recent molecular studies have indicated that it is not a natural hybrid and is actually a species in its own right – hooray. Our plants are the alba form of dolosa.
It differs from Cattleya walkeriana by having flowers from the top of bulbs not from the base and is a much shorter growing plant than Cattleya loddigessii. The plant grows in dryish coastal conditions in Brazil and appreciates very good drainage in a basket (we find it hates growing in a pot) with little water during the winter but plenty in the summer.
The species enjoys life in the roof of our Warm americas section.
Cattleya waleriana and loddigessii below for reference.
To go alongside yesterday’s Gongora maculata we have the beautifully scented Gongora Grossa.
Gongora grossa is another of the larger flowered species and the scent is powerfully spicy and filling Warm Asia where it grows (despite coming from the Americas). It also has particularly long horns protruding down from the lip.
Gongora grossa comes from wet evergreen lowland forest and Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador and the species seems to relish life in our Warm Asia section with a winter minimum of 17C. We grow the plants in baskets and water them frequently to keep the compost moist but do not worry if the humidity falls in the heat of the day.
December is a good time of year for Gongora flowers and our beautiful red Gongora maculata is in flower again.
Gongora maculata is one of the larger growing species and produces large flowers on long pendulous spikes. The flowers on this clone are very heavily spotted in dark red but there are less spotted clones around.
We grow the plant like all our Gongoras in a basket so that it can be hung up when the flower spikes appear although we find plants prefer to sit on a bench when not in flower as they are then much easier to keep well watered. We find that plants prefer wet roots and dryer air to keep leaves in good condition and to make up the large bulbs which produce multiple long flower spikes.
This is one of our top ten orchids and always transports me back to the cloud forests of Brazil
Our expeditions to Brazil in 2001 and 2006 allowed us the privilege of seeing this species flowering in the wild and I have included some photos from the 2006 school expedition bellow to give an idea of its habitat.
As the photos show, we found Cattleya coccinea growing as an epiphyte in mossy cloud forests at around 1200m altitude. Plants were mostly growing in exposed positions where they receive good light, frequent mists, good air movement and cool temperatures. During our visits temperatures were around 12C at night and 22C during the day. It was very noticeable that the forest was dripping every morning from the mists and dew.
New growths have a single leaf that becomes purple in bright sunlight and the flowers are produced from immature growths. The flowers are pollinated by humming birds and are variable in size, shape and colour. Some flowers are rounder, some more angular, and some have considerable yellow on the lip and petals.
This does not seem to be the easiest plant to grow but he challenge is to replicate the plants natural conditions – Cool, wet, bright and windy. It is definitely worth the trouble.