Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bulbophyllum inunctum J. J. Sm. 1906, a small orchid with relatively large flowers

This orchid was a present from a friend.  Unfortunately it arrived at the height of the dry season.   The bare root pseudobulbs were put in a shallow dish, over a layer of sphagnum moss.   Keeping the sphagnum moss wet was a constant chore as in the local dry season humidity during the day can dip as low as 40%.  Although the plant had two developing new growths, these gave no sign of further development and stayed the same size for weeks and then months after the plant arrived.  I found this mighty peculiar as it is my experience that new growths that stop developing due to stress often die.
But when the rainy season arrived and humidity climbed into the 90% range the plant came alive and the new growths finished their growth turning into small replicas of the older pseudobulbs.  Since the rainy season started the plant has been growing slowly but surely.  But in the past month, a very, very wet month humidity was so high, apparently this affected one of the new growths and it rotted away.  I was startled by this as Bulbophyllum love wetness, the event of one pseudobulb  rotting away due to too much water is unknown among my other plants.  So it appears that this plant is sensitive to both dryness and too much water.
My plant bloomed in early June from an old pseudobulb.  It produced a two inch inflorescence with a solitary flower.  The flower was nice but a bit small for the species, perhaps due to the fact that the plant is not fully established in its new home and lacks an extensive root system.  The flower seems sensitive to humidity levels.  I took it into the relatively dry indoor environment and the flower stayed slightly cupped.  I took it out in the garden and the flower perked up and opened fully.
This plant has been in my possession for too short a time to really judge how well it will grow in the long run.  I am giving it the best care I can as I love the flowers.  The plant gets full morning sunlight  until 10 am, and from then on dappled sunlight.  It gets watered daily when the weather is very dry and twice a week when conditions are more humid.  It is fertilized once a week when it is growing, no fertilizer is given when it is not growing.  Local temperatures fluctuate between 85F/29C during the day to 70F/21C at night.  In the local tropical winter night temperatures can drop to 60F/16C, for some months.  This orchid is native from Malaysia and Borneo.
I have not seen this plant in local collections.  There might be some specialist that keep them but I have not seen it exhibited at local shows.  If the date when it bloomed in my garden is any indication, its absence from shows might be due to the fact that it blooms after the spring orchid shows but before the fall shows.

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