Thursday, November 28, 2013

Phalaenopsis Fusheng's Sweet Paradise 'Golden Leopard'

The color combination of the Phalaenopsis hybrid is very eye catching.  It used to be that flowers with these colors were small, this is not the case of this flower.  It may not be the size of a classical white Phalenopsis, but it is clear the hybridizers are well on their way to achieve this bold color combinations on large sized flowers.

Thanks to Irma Saldana, which provided the identification of this orchid.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dendrobium helix P.J. Cribb 1980, some notes on its care

This species is from New Guinea, it grows in the coastal lowlands.  It has proven an easy species to grow under my local climatic conditions.  The largest canes of my plant have reached four feet tall but I am sure it has the potential to grow even larger.  It produces inflorescences intermittently during the year but flowers most realibly in late autumn.  The flowers of this particular clone are orange and have a purple lip.  Here are some observations on its growth and culture.

Light:  My plant grows best just under the sarah cloth where it is exposed to the strongest light short of full sunlight.  Unfortunately the canes grow right up to the shade cloth and inflorescences can grow into the cloth and become damaged or deformed if the plant is not lowered to allow them to develop normally.

Temperature:  It grows well under the local temperatures.

Watering:  Most of the year the local rainfall supplies all the water this plants needs, only in the driest months do this plant has to be watered.  Watering it once a week in the dry season is enough to keep the plant healthy.

Fertilizer:  This plant gets fertilized only when it is producing new canes.  In its growing season it get a high nitrogen fertilizer.

Potting:  It is growing in a wire basket that I made specially for this plant.  The media was bark, but it decayed away years ago.  The plant is growing on top of the remains of its own old root ball.  Every year a new flush of root growth from the new canes grows over the basket and the old roots.  I have also used plastic pots and they work well as long as they have plenty of holes and the media is open.  Clay pots also work well with the added bonus that their weight helps keep the plant upright when the mass of canes becomes too heavy.

Pests:  Thrips will damage the inflorescences and the flowers.  Slugs will eat the canes when they are young and tender.

Notes:  My plants grow best if they are in an open media that allows plenty of air to reach the roots.  The best media for this species in my garden is stones or very hard bark that decays slowly.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bulbophyllum claptonense Rolfe 1905

This is one of a number of species that was classified as a variety of Bulb. lobbii.  

Bulbophyllum orthoglossum Krlz. 1896

A nice Bulbophyllum species with yellow flowers.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Anolis curvieri eating a tarantula

In January of 2013, I noticed that there was a large lizard eating, with some difficulty, a tarantula it had caught.  Apparently, this normally canopy dwelling animal, saw the tarantula in the ground and decided that it was just a too tempting a prey to pass up.  I was able to take a number of photos before it headed back up to the canopy.  The color of this particular animal is unusual as it is rare to see brown adult individuals, it is even rarer that this form is photographed.  The normal color for adults of this species is green, inmature individuals are brown.  Note the very long tail, more than twice as long as the whole body.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Calanthe rubens Ridl. 1890, a deciduous terrestrial orchid

This Calanthe is probably one of the easiest terrestrial orchids that you can grow in Puerto Rico.  All it needs is to be repotted once a year on fresh media and regular watering.  Many years ago I was given a small rootless piece by a friend.  I had never grown a Calanthe so I gave particular attention to the plant.   The plant thrived and next year it bloomed.  When it was two years old I divided it.  This gave me two plants.  Next year I divided them again and then had four.  I repeated the process a few times until I had more plants than I really wanted.  I gave a few of them away.

Since all my plants were a single clone, they bloomed all at the same time.  I would group them all together and for months I would enjoy the massed display of flowers.   When the inflorescences would cease to produce flowers, I would cut them and repot the plants.  I did this for a number of years, but then I began to get lazy.  I neglected them and they started doing poorly.  However they kept flowering although with less vigor.  Unfortunately, I lost this orchid.  The culprit was a black rot that attacked the bulbs.    For those orchid growers that live in a tropical setting this small Calanthe is a good option.   One would think that given the ease of culturing this plant it would be common in local orchid collections, but the reverse is true.  Very, very few people grow Calanthe in Puerto Rico.    I think the main reason is that most people are unfamiliar with this genus and that sources that sell these plants are few and far between.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lepanthes rupestris, Stimson 1970, "in situ" growing on very slippery boulders by a mountain stream

These tiny orchids grow on boulders on the side of mountain streams in the high reaches of Sierra de Luquillo.  The plants are small and easily missed.  The flowers are so small most people are oblivious to their presence.  The boulders where these orchids grow are hideously slippery, moving among them demands supreme care and a constante state of alertness.  Any slip can result in a painful fall at best and broken bones at worst.  Given that these orchids are inconspicuous and in a habitat inimical to human presence, the result is that they are fairly common even in places that humans frequent.  

Taking good macro photos of them is not easy since there is no flat surface anywhere to put a tripod.  Also you have to be careful to keep a good balance among the boulders at the same time that you are taking the photos, something that is not easy if you are handling a 100 mm lens, trying to figure out what is the best exposure and hanging for dear life from the rocks themselves to avoid falling.

On top of all that you need to be alert for flash floods caused by rain far away upstream.  These have killed many a distracted bather in these mountain streams.  Happily the day I visited this particular stream, the place was not as soping wet as usual and I could move among the boulders with relative safety.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bulbophyllum longissimum produces its longest flowers to date.

As my plant of Bulbophyllum longissimum has been getting bigger it is producing larger inflorescences with more flowers.  The flowers are longer than in previous bloomings. The longest flower measured thirteen inches from top tp bottom.  

To bloom before dying, the precarious life of twig epiphytes

A Dendrophylax that is in a piece of bark the tree has shed sends a root toward the nearest branch
A Miconia tree trunk showing the bark that is about to be shed.
This Leochilus is kept in place by its numerous roots even though
the base of the plant is not attached to the tree

In trees that don't shed their bark the branches can become literally
 carpeted with all manner of epiphytic plants

Tillandsia seedlings in a twig of an orange tree

A Campylocentrum has found a favorable spot on a branch and is fruiting heavily.  The Ionopsis on the smaller branch will probably fall along with the dead branch in which it is growing.
Most people picture the life cycle of epiphytic orchids as one that is fairly sedate.  They have the impression that once an orchid germinates in a tree it can spend decades growing and blooming seasonally with little change to its circumstances.   This is true for many species, but not for all.   In particular, the life of orchids that prefer to grow in twigs is a race to bloom before the tree sheds the bark or the twig dies.

Why would an orchid grow under such precarious circumstances?  My own guess is that these orchids are exploiting a niche where they face little competition from other plants.    I have observed that the local orchids sometimes develop such extensive root systems that they alone can keep the plant attached to the tree when the twig or branch dies.  Also, they seem to bloom while quite small, no seven year wait to reach adult size and bloom with these orchids.  However even with all these adaptations life is precarious for these orchids, if one walks on the forest after a particularly windy storm it is common to find fallen twigs often with Ionopsis orchids on them.  In the forest around my house you can find Dendrophylax, Ionopsis, Campylocentrum and Leochilus in the branches of Miconia and Guava trees.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bulbophyllum lepidum flowers, a close up reveals interesting colors, textures and patterns

A close up view of the flowers of Bulbophyllum lepidum reveals interesting colors, textures and patterns.  Local flies go crazy about these flowers and it is not rare to see some of the small ones with pollinia of this species on their backs,

Anolis cristatellus, the camouflage fail of rorschach patterned headed lizard

Generally the local immature Anolis cristatellus are quite a wary bunch.  Given that pretty much every predator around would love to snack on them, including the adult A. cristatellus, their alert demeanor is understandable.   The color of these immature lizards resembles quite closely the leaf litter.  When standing on the forest floor these small lizards are well camouflaged and virtually invisible.  But when these lizards step away from their normal background the color pattern makes them quite conspicuous.  Normally it is not easy to get close to these lizards because they are prone to run away quickly if they become even slightly alarmed.   But this lizard seemed to feel so comfortable perching on the flowers of this Renanthera orchid that it showed an unexpected reluctance to move away.  This allowed me to get close enough to it to take several photos against a background that highlights its camouflage pattern.  The fact that the lizard lacks the tip of its tail means that even a good camouflage is no guarantee of survival in an environment full of hungry and sharp eyed predators.

Bulbophyllum longissimum, growing on and around a basket

I when I got this Bulbophyllum longissimum I wondered what would be a good way to pot it.  I decided that the best way to pot it would be in a wire basket.  The idea was that the plant would be able to grow on top of the basket for a few years and if any pseudobulb grew out of it, the stem could be bent so that it could continue growing down the open sides of the basket.  The plant has thrived on the basket.  Although most of the pseudobulbs are growing on the top of the basket, several are growing on the sides with no loss of vigor or of its capacity to produce flowers.  The basket is two and a half inches deep.  I have found that any additional basket depht confers no advantages to growing this plant.