Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi [Breda] Blume & Rchb.f. 1860, a red colored peloric form

Phalaenopsis stuartiana var. nobilis

The real color of the flower of this orchid is the color of the flower in the top photo.  The other photos were taken with flash and the flowers took a yellow color that is not true to life.

Myrmecophyla tibicinis, cultural notes

In a basket, under the shade of a large avocado tree
Growing on a palm trunk in full sun
St. Croix Botanical Gardens

In areas with warm weather Myrmecophyla tibicinis does very well when grown in a basket or mounted on a tree.   This orchid can grow in full sun, in fact it needs a certain amount of full sun exposure or it will not bloom.  Keeping this plant in too much shade is a common error among beginners.  However, this plant seem to grow better when is given a slight bit of shade from the sun when it is at its most intense, which locally is between the hours of 11 am and 4 pm.

This orchid can produce a huge specimen plant if well cared for.  In one of the photos above you can see a truly humongous specimen in a Ceiba pentandra tree in the St. Croix botanical gardens.   To me the key to have a large and floriferous plant, aside from the right level of sun exposure, is giving it the proper fertilizing when it is producing new pseudobulbs.  This plant should be given a high nitrogen fertilizer when it is growing to help it produce full sized pseudobulbs.  Small, undersized pseudobulbs will not bloom.

The plant growing mounted in a palm trunk, in full sun all day long, produces relatively short inflorescences.  The plant in the basket, which is growing under an avocado tree with a comparatively open canopy, produces the typical long inflorescences.  The inflorescences grow until they emerge from the canopy of the avocado tree, then they produce the flowers.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Blue Moorii cichlid, also known as Blue Dolphin cichlid and Malawi Blue Dolphin cichlid, Cyrtocara moorii

Lake Tebera Rainbowfish Melanotaenia herbertaxelrodi in the Dallas World Aquarium

This rainbowfish is native of the Lake Tebera basin in Papua New Guinea.  I have never seen rainbowfish of this species anywhere that approach the size and beauty of this group which I photographed at the Dallas World Aquarium in 2010.

Melanotaenia lacustris, Turquoise rainbowfish in the Dallas World Aquarium

When given good nutrition, a spacious aquarium and excellent care, the Turquoise rainbowfish can grow into a size and shape that is rarely seen in fish kept in the average aquarium.  I saw this stunning specimen during a visit to the Dallas World Aquarium in 2010.  This fish was just a tiny part of the many interesting things I saw there, nevertheless is small size, it is very impressive in its own right.

Oncidium sphacelatum Lindl. 1841

This orchid is one of one of the easiest orchids to grow in the Caribbean.  It grows vigorously in well cared for but it is forgiving of neglect.  The plant in the photo above started as a two pseudobulb division on top of a terracota pot.  Eventually it totally engulfed the pot with its root mass and grew over, around and under it.

Unfortunately this particular clone doesn't produce the large flower filled inflorescences that other clones can produce.  It produces many short ones.  The flowers are nice enough although a bit on the small side, but perhaps I am prejudiced by the many larger flowered modern Oncidium hybrids.

This particular plant will grow happily tied up to a tree even when it receives absolutely no care.  However to get the best out of this species, you need to water it regularly, fertilize it frequently when it is producing its pseudobulbs and you have to make sure it get the proper amount of light to grow well,. This is not a plant for shady spots, although it will grow and bloom there, it will not perform its best.

Dendrobium moschatum, close up of the front of the lip of the flower

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Nasutitermes costalis, a tropical termite, makes its nuptial flight the night of the first strong rain of May. This is in the Rio Abajo Forest, Arecibo

In the Rio Abajo forest, in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, the termite Nasutermes costatus is very common.  It makes its nuptial flight, when the males and females emerge from the nest to found new colonies, during the month of May.  The reproductives come out after the first strong rain of May.  It has to rain at least an inch of precipitation for the termites to come out in numbers.  If it rains less than an inch, few or none may come out.  The number of reproductives vary from year to year, this is a nuptial flight in 2013, in 2015 their number was much more modest.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

This coqui ate so many flying termites that he could not eat any more

Today, the Rio Abajo Forest, in Puerto Rico, we had the first really good rain of the rainy season.  More than an inch of rain fell on the forest.  I knew that this would stimulate the local termites into making their nuptial flight.  I turned off all the lights in the house and left only the light of the terrace on.   I sat by the light and waited.  Al 7:30 pm the first termites showed up.  This coqui, which was hiding in a bromeliad near my terrace, quickly jumped near the light and started feasting on the termites.  It ate so many of them that it got to the point that it could not eat any more.  I scooped him up with my finger to take a photo.  I was surprisingly docile considering that normally they don't allow themselves to be picked up.  It stayed on my finger for a few moments and then jumped on the camera.  I gently put him into a bromeliad leaf.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Agonostomus monticola a fish native of Puerto Rico, in an exhibit in the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge

Aulonocara hansbaenschi, Red Shoulder Peacock in an exhibit that shows exotic fish at the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refugee

Dendrobium hercoglossum Rchb. f. 1886

This plant grows in my garden with basically no care except for a few applications of fertilizer during its growing season.  Local rainfall fills all its water needs.  This plant is not as floriferous for me as some others of the same species that I have seen on the Internet.  However, given that I hardly give it any care, I am grateful that it blooms at all.  The plant is still young, I brought it as a small bare root keiki.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Laelia lueddemannii naturalized in a tree in Mayaguez

This orchid was planted on this tree in the campus of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez around the middle of the twenty century.  When I first saw this plant in 1980 it was already large.  It was put there by a biology professor that kept orchids as a hobby.  In those times keeping orchids was a high class hobby as most orchids were either too rare or expensive for the general public.  As you can see from the photos I took last March, the plants are healthy and good for at least another fifty years.  By the way, they have survived hurricanes unscratched, at most just a few pseudobulbs were loosened and fell.

Anolis cristatellus, in the RIo Abajo forest, Puerto Rico

Encyclia Renate Schmidt (Ency. Orchid Jungle x Enc. alata), May 2015 blooming

This plant struggled for a few years with a stubborn scale insect infestation.  Last year, thought a combination of strategies, I was able to completely rid this plant of the pesky brown scales that had stunted its growth.  The 2015 flowers are the largest and more numerous it has ever produced.  It still has a way to go before it matches the size of the inflorescences of its parents but it is getting there.

Friday, May 15, 2015

What orchid seed actually looks like; The seeds of Oeceoclades maculata being released from a seed pod in the Rio Abajo forest, Puerto Rico

Most orchid growers are unfamiliar with the appearance of the seeds of orchids.  From time to time one sees questions in forums of the Internet of people that have brought "monkey orchid seeds" and are unable to tell if they got actual orchid seeds or some other types of seed.   Orchid seeds are quite small, almost dust like, so if any that has brought the "monkey orchid seeds" gets anything resembling a normal seed, it surely isn't an orchid seed.

I was hiking through the Rio Abajo forest and stumbled upon a group of Oeceoclades maculata with open seed capsules.  I decided to gently shake the stems that held the seed capsules so that they would release the seeds.  In the photos you can see how tiny the seeds are and how the wind quickly wafts them away.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The effect of drought on a Cochleantes flabelliformis, "in situ" in the Rio Abajo forest in Puerto Rico

The plant had a fruit in February 2015
The plant in February 2015

The driest months of the year in Puerto Rico are March and April.  In May the rainy season starts.  But in 2015 we have not received any significant amount of rain in the forest during the month of May.  The forest is unusually dry for this time of the year.  Many plants look dehydrated and in a poor state.  I went to see a Cochleantes flabelliformis that I had seen in February, to see how it was faring during the drought.  As you can see it has lost almost all its leaves.  I was sad since I had counted on taking photos of its flowers when it bloomed again.  I will be monitoring this plant to see if it will survive and recover once the rains start.