Friday, August 9, 2013
Dendrobium gone wild! Dendrobium crumenatum in San Sebastian Puerto Rico
Dendrobium crumenatum, known as the pigeon orchid, is ubiquitous in orchid collections in the island of Puerto Rico. I suspect the two main the reasons it is so common in collections are, one, it can grow well under Puerto Rico’s climatic conditions and two, it is generous producing plantlets along its flowering stems. Also, it can stand utter neglect and can survive a wide range of light exposures from full sunlight to deep shade.
The flowers of Den. crumenatum last only one day, but this is compensated by the fact that the plant blooms every time there is a strong shower that lowers the temperature 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The flowers are strongly fragrant and a big plant can have dozens of flowers at the same time. As a result of this orchid capacity to survive, and even thrive, with minimal or no care, many people simply tie a plant to a tree and essentially forget about it. If the location is favorable Den. crumenatum can grow into a huge plant with many canes.
In 1984, I visited the garden of Dr. Juan A. Rivero, he had many types of orchids, growing both on trees and in pots. I noted that there was a seedling Den. crumenatum in the trunk of a tree. Dr. Rivero told me that the plants would set seed and that some plantlets had appeared spontaneously on the trees. The next time I saw seedlings growing feral was in January 2012. In January 2012, I visited the city of San Sebastian to participate in the Festival de la Novilla. This festival is named because a young cow is adorned with ribbons and paraded through the streets of the city. Needless to say lots of drinking and merrymaking happens, but I digress. As I was walking along a city street I saw a large plant full of blooms inside a fenced garden. I stopped to take some photos and then I noticed that in one of the trees that lined the street there were seedlings of this Dendrobium.
The seedlings were growing on the trunk, from a little bit below eye level to high in the branches. It counted a dozen seedlings on the tree. Some were close to blooming size and others were only a few inches long. The tree where the seedlings were growing was about twenty feet away from the site of the specimen plant, which I suspect was the parent.
As I explored the area, I noticed there were a number of orchids on the nearby trees, with the exception of the tree with the seedlings, all were in the gardens and clearly put there by humans. There was a large plant of Dendrobium cucullatum, a clump of Dendrobium Jacqueline type, a strap leaf Vanda and many Arachnis plants, probably from their look Arach. Maggie Oei.
Given that the seedlings of Den. crumenatum are becoming established with no human help, and that locals clearly love to see orchids on their trees, I would think it will stand little difficulty colonizing the area. I checked other trees near the one with seedlings but no other had seedlings on them. Maybe next year, as I go to the Festival de la Novilla, I will go and see how they are doing.
If you notice any exotic orchid growing in the wild in Puerto Rico, please contact Prof. Ackerman of the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras. He is studying invasive orchid species and will appreciate the information. It is important that the information on the location of the plants be as precise as possible.