Thursday, July 27, 2017

Will the real Arachnis flos-aeris (L.) Rchb. f. 1886, please stand up?

The real Arachnis flos aeris

In Puerto Rico, Arachnis plants are common in gardens, whoever almost all are hybrids.  The most common of which is Arachnis Maggie Oei "Yellow Ribbon".  Slightly less common is the clone Maggie Oei "Red Ribbon".  There are other clones of this hybrid but they are much more rare, one that is particularly beautiful is "Maroon".  The species itself is quite rare and few people grow it.  An image search on the Internet will yield many photos of Maggie Oei identified as the species.  Maggie Oei is a hybrid of two Arachnis species.

I was visiting a friend in the town of lares when I noticed that some of its plants were subtly different from Maggie Oei, the leaves were longer and slightly curled.  It turned out that the plants were Arachnis flos aeris.  The flowers of flos aeris are quite similar to that of the hybrids that were produced with it but the petals are more hooked and the dorsal petal produces a musky odor, one old name for the species was A, moschifera.
Arachnis Maggie Oei "Red Ribbon"

Paphiopdilum Lady Isabel "US Botanical Garden" AM/AOS, CCM/AOS, photographed at the Conservatory, in Washington DC, US, in 2004.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Dendrobium nobile culture: Growing naturalized in a tree in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

I brought this plant back in 1990, at that time it was huge, it completely filled an twelve inch basket with its canes.  I got it from a plant vendor that had been growing the plant for years without it producing a single flower.  Although the plant was large, the vendor gave it to me very cheap.  The vendor was happy to clear bench space for more profitable plants and I was happy to have a plant to experiment what conditions would make it bloom.

In December, I took the plant with me to the place I lived at the time, at an altitude of of 3500 feet, in the Sierra de Luquillo, in the eastern part of the island of Puerto Rico.  The local temperature in winter can go down into the upper fifties and the local humidity is very high often in the nineties.  I put it in a place where it would get morning sunlight but would not get rained on.   Then I didn’t water it for two months.  Because of the high humidity the canes didn’t get very shriveled and wrinkly.   In March of that year I started watering it sparingly, in April I started watering it normally but didn’t give it any fertilizer.

In May of that year the plant was covered with buds.  When it bloomed, it produced 150 large, fragrant flowers.  It was quite a spectacle.    When the plant finished blooming I took it out of the basket and divided it in many pieces.   I gave away several the pieces, potted some, put some in baskets and tied a piece to the trunk of an avocado tree.

The plant in the avocado tree grew slowly.  Mainly because I left it completely alone, no watering or fertilizer.  It has been in the tree now for three decades.  At first it was in deep shade, and it would not bloom even when the canes were fully adult sized.  Then part of the tree was cut down and the plant suffered sunburn, it bloomed weakly.  Now that it gets full sun in the morning and dappled sunlight the rest of the day it is blooming better than ever.  The canes are the largest it has ever produced, some are two and a half feet long.

The flowers are fewer and larger than the plants that are potted and get watered and fertilized.  The color of the flowers is variable.  I have observed that the plants that are in full sun have flowers with more intense color.

This plant has a very wide temperature tolerance and can even endure temperatures close to freezing without harm.   From my experience, I can attest that it is a good plant to naturalize on trees on those areas that are not subject to freezing weather.  Although I have some plants on pots and on baskets, none is as large or as healthy as the plant naturalized on the tree.  This is mainly because they must be repotted from time to time and this means they lose some of their root ball.  The naturalized plant has a massive number of roots that cover the trunk for a few feet around it in all directions. 

However, this plant might not bloom even with the best of care, this can be caused by a number of reasons.  First, if grown in a spot that is too shady the plant will not bloom, it will produce long and spindly weak canes.   If given fertilizer at a time when it is finishing its growing and getting ready for the dry season this will stimulate it to start new growths and can short circuit the blooming season.   If watered at the time when it is normally the dry season in its habitat, this also can inhibit blooming.  Some plants can bloom in the shade, even if fertilized and watered, but often they produce just a few flowers near the tip of the canes.  Low temperatures stimulate blooming in this species.  The plant canes can lose their leaves during the dry season, this is normal and a prelude to blooming.  I should add that I have seen fully leafed canes blooming.  But generally, it has been my experience that plants that keep their leaves bloom less abundantly than those that become deciduous.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Campylocentrum fasciola (Lindl.) Cogn. 1906 a Puerto Rican orchid "in situ" in the Rio Abajo forest

Few people notice these orchids, and even fewer have seen the flowers.  These orchids are not rare, they are just so inconspicuous as to be invisible.  The plant has no leaves, is it composed of a very short stem and roots that can be more than a forty centimenters long.  They prefer to grow on twigs.  The plant I observed only opened the first flower at the base of the inflorescence, all the others remained closed.  The flower is about one millimeter wide.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Cyrtochilum meirax (Rchb. f.) Dalström 2000 "in situ" in the mountains of Puerto Rico

An uncommon species in Puerto Rico, few people ever see it due to its preference to the highest parts of the mountains.  It is so rare that few local orchidists are even aware this species exists or have seen it.  Thankfully a portion of its habitat is in protected state forest.  The truly dreadful state of the roads leading to its habitat discourages all but the most hardy from attempting to visit so these plants are fairly safe from being collected.

Bulbophyllum rubroguttatum Seidenf. 1985

I brought this plant a few years back to Housermann orchids in Illinois.  Compared with my other Bulbophyllum it is relatively slow growing.  I think I had in too much shade since it didn't bloom for years.  I moved it to brighter light and it started producing inflorescences.  The only complaint I have with the species is the annoyingly long internodes, some are more than four inches long!  I have found very little information about this plant aside from the fact that it is found in Thailand.

Bulbophyllum (echinolabium x phalaenopsis)

I brought this plant a few years ago from Carter and Holmes.  It has been growing slowly, at least when compared with my other Bulbophyllum.  The flower is richly colored and the stink it produces is faint when compared with the sheer revolting and powerful smell that issues from the parent species.  I will repot it when it finishes blooming to a basket to see if this helps the plant grow larger.