Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Myrmecophila grandiflora (formerly Schomburgkia tibicinis var. grandiflora)

A full plant view that shows the six feet plus inflorescence.

The flower against the morning sky, note the ants in the bud.

A top view of the lip showing the exposed column that is said to be an identification mark for grandiflora
This plant was given to me a few years ago by a friend.  My friend had his plant growing on a citrus tree.  His plant was enormous, with many side branches, and had colonized a large area on the trunk of the tree.  She cut a piece with two pseudobulbs and gave it to me.  I was not sure how to pot this plant as I had previously lost some Myrmecophilas to base rot.  So I just put the plant in an empty basket and stabilized it with a few large chunks of bark.  The orchid spent many months in that basket with no sign that it was either growing or declining.  Eventually it started producing a new growth.

The new growth was of a much smaller size than the original pseudobulbs, probably due to the fact that the originalpseudobulbs had a meager amount of roots.  But as the pseudobulb matured it started producing roots.  The next pseudobulb it produced was slightly bigger, not much of an improvement on the first one.  However the plant started producing roots with increased vigor and the basket became filled with the plant’s roots.  It produced its first full sized pseudobulb on the third year on my possession.  Learned that it grew pretty fast once it got going and that it was crucial for getting a good sized pseudobulb that you provided abundant water and fertilizer during the plant growth phase.
When it first bloomed the inflorescence was damaged by some insect that kept nibbling on the stem of the inflorescence.  It produced only a few flowers.  The second time it bloomed the inflorescence was severely damaged and the plant aborted it.  The photos you see in this essay come from the orchids first and third blooming.

The flowers last from a week to ten days.  I suspect they would last more if I kept them away from the wind and pollinating insects.  The flowers open well during the morning but tend to collapse in a heap before midday.  To get good photos of the plant I had to get up early in the morning when the flowers were at its best.  The inflorescence shown in the photo topped out at six feet and six inches.  At one time it became entangled in the shadehouse roof wire netting, that is why the inflorescence has a slight bet to It.  The inflorescence got bent 90 degrees but to my surprise, once it was free of the wire, it slowly righted itself and kept on growing as if nothing had happened.

My plant is grown under shadecloth but the shadecloth allows quite a bit of light to come through.  I water it twice weekly when it is producing pseudobulbs and fertilize it weekly.  Outside of the time when it is growing it only gets water when it rains and it is not fertilized.  Ants love this plant and it is rare to see the plant without ants on it.  However the only ants I have seen in large numbers in this plant are black and don’t bite when disturbed, they just scatter in a panic.  My Myrmecophila humboltii, however, is guarded by a truly vicious type of large yellow ant that has a memorably painful bite.

This plant is fairly common in orchid collections in Puerto Rico and even people that don’t know about orchids sometimes have it in their gardens as a curiosity.  The fact that this plant, if planted in a favorable spot, can grow, and even thrive, with relatively little care helps it survive even in the hands of those that give their plants little or no care.

1 comment:

Char said...

I ordered one of these about four months ago, not knowing what it was (the website only showed the flower and I thought it was pretty). When the plant arrived I was stunned at what a monstrously big thing it was! Here in New Mexico our most humid days are about 50% and we typically run from 8 to 25 % humidity. I have soaked this baby every morning and squirt the roots every night (it's in a Vanda basket). It seems relatively happy and produced a new pseudobulb for me that rivals any of the ten or twelve it already had in size. Your photo is the first I've seen that shows me how and where to expect an inflorescence from. All I can say is WOW. I have it hanging in a window at about chin height and I guess I'm glad I have 14' ceilings. Hopeing it will send up a spike for me some day. Orchids are challenging in my climate.