Thursday, October 30, 2008

Grammatophyllum speciosum

Grammatophyllum speciosum, this is a picture of the adult plant 
as it was when it produced its first inflorescence.
Grammatophyllum speciosum produces imperfect flowers near the base of the inflorescence, this may alarm those growers that are not aware of this particular trait of this genus. Flowers that are away from the base are normal.

The lip of the normal flower

This is the normal flower of Grammatophyllum speciosum

I got this plant of Grammatophyllum speciosum as a gift in June 1997. It was a two cane seedling, the largest cane was about two inches tall. It was a gift from Donato Segui. During the first few years, when it still relatively small I used to lavish care on it. But as it grew and became bigger and bigger, I started to care for it less. Eventually it ended up in the garden where it was planted in a pedestal made out of rock.

Last year a car hit the pedestal and destroyed it. The plant suffered only a slight damage but I had to drag it away from the spot where it was growing to where it s now.  Perhaps the change of place triggered flowering and it bloomed after this event.  It started flowering early in March, eleven years after I received it.

The flowers of this plant look somewhat different from the type of Gramm. speciosum that seems to be common in botanical collections. It is greener and has less maroon color. A google search located a photo of a plant almost identical to mine. It is growing in the Khao Yai National Park in Thailand.The parent of this plant was brought to Puerto Rico around the middle of the last century by a college professor, Dr. Juan A. Rivero. He apparently acquired the plant during a visit to South East Asia. 

For many years Dr. Rivero's plant was as far as I know the only one in the west of the island. In the middle nineties he selfed his plant and grew many seedlings. These seedlings were sold by a nursery in Cabo Rojo. There are several of these plants around the west of the island that still survive. Under my care this plant has been found to be fairly undemanding, and practically plague free. In my locality the climate supplies most of this plant’s growing needs as far as water, humidity and temperature.This orchid forms large clumps that can reach amazing sizes, a gigantic one that weighted about two tons was exhibited in Britain in the Crystal Palace in 1851 and was one of the centerpieces of that year’s exhibition.

Media: Bark, after the root basket formed, none.

Potting: First on well drained plastic pots, then on a very strong metal basket.

Fertilizing: 20-20-20 when it was in a pot. When it was large enough to put in a wire basket I stopped giving it liquid fertilizer and started pouring two or three cups of horse manure on top of the root ball at the start of the growing season and kept replacing it as it degraded and got washed away by the rain.

Light: Full morning sun, light shade after midday, It gets this regime because it is what is available on the only spot that I had to put this plant.

Temperature: From 95F high during the day in summer to 60F during the night in winter. Said to withstand temperatures down to 45F.

Care: Staking up the canes when necessary to allow the grass mower to pass. It is important to keep checking for the snails and slugs that may attack the inflorescence as soon as they get the slightest whiff of its existence. Regular grooming to remove dead canes and to keep the plant tidy go a long way toward helping this plant stay healthy.

No comments: