Saturday, December 17, 2011

Encyclia aspera in Mindo, Ecuador

I found this Encyclia aspera plant growing in a garden in Mindo, Ecuador.  The flowers were in poor condition probably due to insect attack.  The plant was in a shady spot which probably accounts for the few flowered inflorescence as Encyclia are generally plants that need from bright light to full sun to do their best.   This plant was rescued from an area where the vegetation was cut down to make way for a road.  I must confess that as an orchidist it was a peculiar experience to walk the trails in the Mindo area and see hundreds of orchids of every imaginable description in the decaying branches that lay on the sides of the trails.  I am sure that I would have been able to gather, just from the stuff lying on the ground, a collection of plants to rival that of a botanical garden in variety and sheer size.    You might think I would have been tempted to gather a few of the choosiest varieties to take home but I knew better.  Probably none of the plants would survive for long away from their native temperature and humidity regime in the Andes Mountains.
Many years ago an elderly friend of mine brought from Peru a Sobralia orchid.   How he managed to pass through customs with that plant is mystery to me to this day as it was not a tiny thing.   Well, things were different back then, and I am taking about a time decades before the terrorist attacks in New York made the airport inspectors adamant about groping everyone and their grandma.  The moral I guess is that never underestimate an orchid grower hell bent on bringing an orchid home.  My friend was as excited as a hen with a newly laid egg with his Sobralia plant.  He waxed lyrical about the huge, brightly colored flowers of the orchid.   He diligently showered tender and loving care on the orchid but it was all in vain.  Shortly after arrival the plant leaves turned black, fell and then the rest of the plant became something similar but not quite exactly like, a pile of mush.  Since then I have seen this chain of events replayed with a variety of orchids, all of them cooler growing plants brought on impulse by people dazzled by the beautiful or unusual flowers.

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