Today’s orchid is a real monster of a plant. The species is found in Mexico and central America where it is found as an epiphyte in open Oak forests or a terrestrial on cliffs. It grows at around 1200-1500m altitude and so is cool growing and two gigantic plants fill the far end of our Cool Americas section. The largest plant is 2m across and this year has produced five 2m flower stems each topped with a group of 10 to 15 large and beautiful flowers.
The pseudobulbs are also enormous with thick leathery leaves. This plant is definitely not ideal as a house plant and our plants very rarely make it to shows (they are a big as my Jumbo Transit Van and are really heavy) but they are terrific plants to grow and enjoy.
The species is closely related to the much smaller Laelia anceps (see day 359) and in the wild there are natural hybrids between the two species. We remade this natural hybrid about twelve years ago and the first seedling has just opened its first flowers (below)
The hybrid is very much intermediate between the parents with a long flower spike and large flowers with very anceps patals but a very superbiens lip. It has a single leaf like anceps and size wise is very much half way between the two parents – so still very big!
I don’t know what you think, and perhaps we are biased but we still prefer the two parent species.
Pod parent – Laelia anceps:
Pollen parent – Laelia superbiens
and Joe for scale:
This startling species is native to warm forests in Southern China and Vietnam where it experience a wet summer monsoon and a cooler dryer winter when it flowers.
We find it enjoys warm temperatures and although we grow it in a basket to show off the lovely pendulous flowers we work hard to keep it well watered in the growing season from March until September. Flowers are produced from the centre of new growths every spring.
This is an unusual orchid because it has terete leaves which means that the leaves are thin and cylindrical. This is usually an adaptation to cope with dry conditions and for this Dendrobium, that comes from New South Wales and Queensland in Australia, the winters are cool and dry in its natural habitat so we grow the plant on a bare cork bark mount where it can stay nice and dry between waterings. This photo shows the lower part of a plant that now hangs 2m long.
The flowers are large and attractive. making this plant a rewarding one to grow though it has been slow to develop and is already 14 years out of flask. This is the ‘aureum’ variety which is a golden yellow colour rather than the more usual white,
This delightful dendrobium species is native to the Philippines where it is reported as growing on mossy limestone cliffs at an altitude of 1400m. The 1.5cm wide flowers each have a prominent purple blotch on the lip which gives rise to the name.
The species is bird pollinated and hangs its bunches of flowers from older pseudobulbs. The flowers here are on bulbs grown in 2015 while the 2016 pseudobulbs have sprays of flowers that will open in about a month. The 2017 pseudobulbs will not flower until next year.
We find that the species does best grown warm with water throughout the year as it is always in growth.
This morning the greenhouse is full of the delicate little flowers of Mediocalcar decoratum. This species is very accomodating and so we have plants in many sections including Warm Asia and Coll Americas which are the sections it seems to prefer.
The species comes from Papua New Guinea where it grows in shady forest up to 2500m. Mediocalcar decoratum’s small bell shaped flowers in orange and yellow suggest that the likely pollinator is Sun Birds. Sun Bird’s are Africa and Asia’s version of South America’s Humming Birds and we saw some lovely species in Rwanda.
We grow all our plants mounted which suits the plants habit and find newly divided plants are happiest cool and shaded in Cool Americas but once established the plants flourish in any section with a minimum above 10C as long as protected from strong sun in the summer which dries plants too much..