Monday, June 30, 2014

Ionopsis utricularioides, I tied a fallen plant to a guava tree twig to see what happens



Here you can see a new growth starting from the base of the orchid, just above the roots


Last year I noticed that a Ionopsis plant was growing on a branch of a Camasey tree near my house.  I was delighted as it was in the perfect location for me to easily document the life cycle of this species.  Unfortunately, the branch was accidentally broken when a tall truck parked under the tree.  I was dissapointed, but I decided to tie the plant to a guava tree twig to see if it would survive.  

I tied the plant to a twig in the same place where plants in the wild grow, that is under the top leaves of the branch so that a layer of leaves protects the plant from exposure to full sun.  I tied the plant using wire.  I put the plant in the same orientation that I have seen plants in the wild.

For the last six months the plant the plant has been producing only roots, some of which have wandered into the guava tree branch.  For the moment the bulk of the roots are in the original, dead, Camasey branch.  I expect that when the new growth matures it will produce a flush of roots that will colonize the guava branch more fully.

The plant surprised me by producing a small inflorescence, very tiny for plants growing in a living host in the wild.  Because I want to see if the plant will get larger as more of its roots are in the guava branch, I will prevent the plant from developing seed pods.

My expectations is that this plant will grow larger next year and bloom much more prolifically.  One of the things that intrigue me is that many of these plants don't live long in the wild.  I will keep this one under observation to see how it grows, blooms and how long it will last.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dendrobium Gatton Sunray, registered in 1919 and still among the best


This orchid has been with me for many years.  It is a cross of Dendrobium pulchellum and Den. Illustre which itself is a cross of Den. pulchellum and Den. chrysotoxum.  This plant can grow into a huge specimen.  My plant remains relatively small mainly because the local weather is slightly too wet for its needs and it ocassionally loses canes to rot even though it is planted in a basket.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The baby angelfish, are growing well, they eat like there is no tomorrow

One of the traits that distinguish Pterophyllum scalare is its very round body profile.
This fish shows a slightly compressed body, its siblings are all rounder.


Notice the full belly in these two fish

The baby angelfish arrived here the first of June.  At first they were very timid.  They are still a bit more shy than most angelfish, but live food sure brings them out of their hiding places.  Most of the time they hold their fins straight up, in a vertical position that I find very pleasing.  I feed them three times a day, but I am sure they would eat all day long if I gave them live food.  If you see them eating live food you would think they are greedy and gluttonous.  But they fact is that they can be picky on what they eat and will reject certain foods particularly pellets and flakes unless you know when to offer them.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sobralia callosa L.O. Williams 1946


This is the first blooming in my garden of this orchid.  The color is impressively bright and eyecatching.  This orchid bloomed at the same time as Dendrobium crumenatum, I wonder if they are using the same environmental cues.  A few days ago there was a tremendous thunderstorm of such violence that the local temperature went down a few degrees in a short time, surely prompted the Dendrobium to bloom, perhaps the Sobralia too.  I will be watching to see if this happens again.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Angelfish, Peruvian "altum", two weeks after they arrived.




The baby angelfish were quite timid for the first week after they arrived.  But now they have lost all their wariness and come out quickly to see if I am going to feed them.  I feed them blood worms and rat tail maggots.  I give them a little flake food in the morning, when they are very hungry, otherwise they would not eat it.  I have offered them tiny pieces of frozen shrimp but they have scorned it.  Every week I do a 50% water change.  They have learned to take bloodworms from the net.  I feed them four times a day.  A little bit of flake food in the morning, an hour later bloodworms and insect larvae.  Then two more feedings in the afternoon of bloodworms or other insect larvae.  I give them no more than what they can eat in a few minutes.  They are gluttonous and in a very short time they fill their bellies to the bursting point.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bulbophyllum facetum Garay 1997


 This is the first blooming of this philippine endemic in my collection.  Compared with other members of the sestochilus section of Bulbophyllum that I grow, this one is a slow and deliberate grower that ocassionally loses growths due to rot, a rare thing among my Bulbophyllum.  The flower came out of the side of the pseudobulb and initially I thought a new pseudobulb was going to develop.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dendrobium formosum Roxb. var giganteum Roxburg ex Lindley 1832, in my experience this one really hates being put in a pot


This species has  nice flowers reminiscent of a white Cattleya.  It can produce foot long canes that will bear short inflorescences that with several relatively large white flowers.  In my experience it will only grow well if it is mounted in a plaque, all my potted plants either languished producing poor growth or died.  Plants mounted in tree fern plaques grew larger and thrived for a years but eventually deteriorated as the tree fern plaque decayed and started retaining too much water.  So my advice is to mount these orchids in a plaque and be watchful for poor growth, that will be a warning sign that the mount needs to be replaced.

Dendrobium Love Memory 'Fizz'




This Dendrobium nobile hybrid grew very well in the coastal lowlands of Puerto Rico.   Unfortuantely when the blooming season arrived it was the only adult nobile hybrid not to produce flowers.  Because it appeared that it would not bloom in the coast I took it to the mountains, to an elevation of 1000 feet over sea level.  Because the night temperatures are lower in the mountains than it the coast it appears this provided the needed stimulus to make the plant bloom and in a few weeks flower buds started to develop.  The flowers are holding up well even with the daily downpours that tend to damage less sturdy ones.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dendrobium chrysotoxum Lindley 1847, will bloom reliably if you make sure it gets the proper care when it is producing new canes






I have had this plant for so long I can't remember when I brought it.  In the past it was a frustrating and inconsistent bloomer.   In the last few years it has been blooming every year.  What caused the change?  The first thing I did was to start fertilize it heavily the moment I noticed a new growth developing.  I noticed that canes below a certain size won't bloom in my plant, only the ones that near 12 inches tall bloom reliably.  You can see in the photo two sizes of canes, notice that the tall ones have the inflorescences.    This plant needs to be exposed to full sun to grow well.  A few hours of full sun in the morning seem to be enough to produce tall and thick canes.  My plant gets full sun almost until midday.  I have not repotted this plant for many years, it is very pot bound.  I had another plant, which I repotted after it had been in its pot for a long time.  Unfortunately it departed for the great terracota pot in the sky.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dendrobium devonianum, a challenge to grow and flower in the mountains of Puerto Rico




Years ago I brought this plant of Dendrobium devonianum after seeing a stunning photo of a flower in the Orchid Source forum.   As it often happens to orchid growers, the beauty of the flower overwhelmed any apprehension on whether the plant would grow under my climatic conditions.   In 2008 I acquired two small plants.  Both were just a few inches long and their roots were wrapped in coconut fiber.

The larger plant grew vigorously, when it bloomed I was very disappointed to find that it was actually Dendrobium aduncum.  The little plant grew slowly and produced comparatively weak growths.    The thin, wiry canes that it had didn’t give me too much confidence in its survival.  I was so concerned at the thinness of the cane that I measured the stem near the base of the plant and found that it barely was .8 millimeter wide.

Eventually, in 2011 the orchid produced a cane that seemed large enough to bloom.  But no flowers were produced.  Five years after it had arrived at my garden, in 2012 the orchid finally bloomed. It produced two short lived, pale flowers.  I was happy that it bloomed but sad that the flowers lasted just a few days.  The plant didn’t bloom in 2013.  In 2014 it has produced five flowers, its best performance yet. 

This orchid has proven to be challenging to keep in good shape in my garden.  It has lost canes for no clear reason.  I grows slowly compared with my other pendent Dendrobium.  Its leaves are short lived which means only the last foot or so of the growing cane is leafy at any given moment.  

In a location with a more temperate climate this orchid would do much better.  Given its spectacular flowers, and the fact that there are many growers in the northern countries which can give it the moderate temperatures it likes, I am surprised that this Dendrobium is not more popular.  The Bakers in the book on Dendrobium report that growers say this plant is difficult to grow, something that my own experience confirms. Most of the plants I have seen in captivity outside its native haunts don’t seem to be in a much better condition or more floriferous than mine.

In my experience this plant is not for the novice or neglectful grower perhaps unless you happen to live in those parts of Asia where this plant is native.   Even with the best care this plant may prove a disappointment if you live in an area where the local temperatures are uniformly high for most of the year. 


The plant is potted in a six inch wide wire basket.  It is potted in bark. It gets watered every three to four days.  It gets fertilized once a week during growing season and not at all between December and June.  It gets full morning sun but after 10:00 am it gets light filtered through the canopy of trees and palms.  It has never been repoted.  In my garden it blooms in May and June.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Encyclia Gail Nakagaki (Enc. cordigera x Enc. alata) a second one blooms in my garden> The lip of this seedling shows a richer color than the lip of the first one to bloom.


This is the second plant of this cross to bloom in my garden.  The flowers have a richer color in the lip than the first one to bloom.  These are first bloom seedling so their full potential is still to be seen.  However I must confess that I don't buy these particular orchids for the perfection of their flowers but for their delightful fragrance.

Catyclia Middleburg 'Maj' x Encylica bractecens


First bloom for this Encyclia cross in my garden.  Do I have to say I am happy?  Conditions where I grow this plant are challeging for most orchids as it is a windy place where temperatures can soar into the nineties and humidity can be low.  But Encyclia crosses take the wind, the heat and the drought without complaint.  I am mighty pleased with the color of the flowers of this first bloom seedling.  The Enc. bractecens parent does exceedingly well in my garden, because of this I expect that this plant will thrive in my garden.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cattleya Hardyana


Cattleya Hardyana blooms in my garden every June without fail.  The flowers are mighty fragrant.  They are generally pest free but they have to be checked from time to time for scales.  Scales are a very persistent pest that will turn into an awful infestation if not managed when there are still a few of them.  In my garden the hybrid does much better than either parent.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The "peruvian altum" angelfish briefly came out of hiding, and then ran back to hide again




The baby angelfish spent their first day in hiding, barely peeking out from their refuge among the decorations in the tank.  They spurned almost all food, they ignored tiny bits of shrimps and flakes, only mosquito larvae, which are in very short supply nowadays given people's concern about the Chikungunya virus, tempted them to eat.  On their second day they were only marginally less timid.  Since all the mosquito larvae available was consumed on their first day, I resorted to offering them rat tail maggots and bloodworms.  They hardly fed during the day but in the evening they at last started hunting and ate the bloodworms and maggots until their stomachs were bulging.  When I sit in front of the aquarium they stop all activity and hide.  They are very timid and cautious compared with the commercial strain angelfish I have had.  They take from twenty minutes to half and out to become slightly less wary when I sit in front of the aquarium.  Hopefully with time they will become accustomed to my presence.  Unfortunately getting them live food is a challenge.  I am considering raiding the local bromeliad water tanks to see if I can find enough mosquitoes for them.  It appears I will have to add more vegetation to the tank to make them feel secure.  Optimal feeding for juvenile angelfish is twice a day.  Too much food can foul the water if it goes uneaten.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Dendrobium cretaceum, now considered to be Den. polyanthum



I brought this species two years ago and it has proven to be a reliable bloomer that seems not to be bothered by hot weather.  My plant has grown well with no special care.  As you can see it has bloomed the lenght of the cane, not something that is common here when dealing with Dendrobium that come from the north of India and the Himalayas.   The flowers last well if protected from insects.  Thrips in particular are a problem as they are mightly attracted to these flowers, probably due to their white color. 

In the past I saw some plants of this species labeled as Dendrobium primulinum var. alba.  The name polyanthum has precedence over the name cretaceum for these plants.  O have used the name cretaceum because many plants have been sold under his name. This plant was unknown in local orchid circles until fairly recently.  The first person I knew that cultivated and bloomed it was Dr. Julio Rios.  Since then this plant has been imported into the island and seems to be doing well in local collections.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Five baby angelfish, they are descendants from a wild strain from Peru


 A bunch of babies!

Today I got these five juveniles angelfish, Pterophyllum.  They are the descendants of a wild strain.  All the angelfish in today's pet market are descendants of fish that have been mass bred in captivity for many decades.  The need to produce huge numbers of fish to supply the demand, made the fish breeders to remove the eggs from the parents as a mater of standard practice.  This eventually resulted in angelfishes that lacked parental skills and would eat their spawn and fry.   My hope is that these fish will eventually breed and I will be able to document their parental behavior.  Domesticated angelfish are intelligent, somewhat aggressive (they are cichlids, even if they don't look the part) and can become very tame and responsive toward their owners.  Oh, you read these fish are peaceful?  Well, only in relation to their cichlid brethren from South America, which can be extremely aggressive toward other fishes.  Angelfish can be downright nasty to each other when they are breeding.  They are also skilled predators that will eat any fish that will fit into their mouths.