Monday, September 16, 2013
Cycnoches barthiorum is native of Colombia where it grows epiphytically near sea level.¹ When I bought this plant in 2005 it was not without some trepidation as it had a reputation as a difficult orchid to keep in cultivation. At the same time I got this plant I acquired some other Cycnoches. I had never grown Cycnoches and wanted to see how they would adapt to my local climatic conditions.
I planted the Cycnoches in plastic pots which I modified (see photo) to allow for maximum aeration of the roots. The media used for this orchid was medium sized bark pieces. To ensure the best drainage, a layer of Styrofoam chips was put in the bottom of the pot.
I would fertilize this plant only when it was growing. When the new pseudobulb reached its mature size I would stop fertilizing the plant. To insure that the plant would get plenty of fertilizer when it was producing the new pseudobulb, I would put a few bits of cow manure on top of the media.
The plant would get full sun from about eight in the morning to 11 and during the rest of the day it would get the dappled sunlight that filtered through the canopy of the trees that surround my house. This orchid stayed in the same place for all the years I had it. This sunlight seemed to suit the plant well. However because the amount of sunlight my terrace gets changes with the seasons, by September it would be getting full sun earlier in the morning, I suspect this resulted in a few black spots in the otherwise perfect foliage. However September is also one of the wettest months of the year so perhaps the spots could have been due to the high humidity.
My plant thrived under the local climate and bloomed unfailingly every year since its very first one with me. It would produce two inflorescences in a year and on rare occasions a third smaller one. Its blooming season was in September and October. After blooming, late in the year, the plant would lose its leaves and remain dormant for months, until it would start growing the next year.
This plant growth/bloom cycle mashed perfectly with the local dry/wet season cycle. I never had to water this plant as the local precipitation would supply all the water the plant needed. During the dry season I could ignore his plant completely as it was resting in a leafless condition. Curiously the only pest this plant ever suffered was some curious cottony insects in the leaves. These insects were easily vanquished using some alcohol. Surprisingly, I lost the other Cycnoches to snails and rot, but barthiorum seemed unfazed by anything nature would throw at it.
This orchid was so reliable in its growing and blooming cycle that I didn’t bother to try to get some new plants out of it. This was an unfortunate error. I should have cut some pieces of the pseudobulb to make new plants. In 2011 I noted a yellow spot on the side of one of the pseudobulbs. I cut the piece out but this didn’t help. The plant succumbed to rot a few weeks later. By then I had cut a number of pieces from plant and some even had begun to sprout new growths. But apparently all had been infected with the same thing that had killed the mother plant. One by one all rotted away. So there is a lesson for us orchid growers, never take a plant for granted, even the hardiest, resistant orchid can die of rot if we are not careful.
¹La Croix, I. F. 2008. The new encyclopedia of orchids: 1500 species in cultivation.