Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Some naturalized orchids in the town of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

This is a Brassia, I have not been able to determine if it is a hybrid or a species

Possibly Laelia lueddemanni or a related species
This photo is used to illustrate how the flower of the Laelia on the tree look,
This plant is not the same clone as the plant on the tree.
A humongous plant of Dendrobium moschatum, see photo of flower below

A different view of the clump of Laelia lueddemanni
Rhyncholaelia dygbyiana

These orchids were put in this large tree many decades ago.  I can attest that all these plants were alreay in place and well established by the year 1980.  The large plant of Dendrobium moschatum seems to have been planted in the 1940's.  All these plants are surviving entirely on their own and have weathered uncountable storms and a few hurricanes.  If you look at the branch were the Brassia is growing, it is clear part of it snapped away years ago.   Unfortunately some of the orchids I saw in the 1980's died out or fell from the tree.  I recall there was a Myrmecophila, a Cattleya (possibly skinnery) and a Laelia similar to purpurata that are no longer in the tree.  Given that some were pretty high in the canopy, it is unlikely they were removed by humans as it would have taken some large equipment to reach so high.  I hope they remain in the tree for long years to come to delight and intrigue future generations of orchidists.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Paphiopedilum roebbelenii [Rchb.f] Pfitzer 1894, a variety of Paph. phillippinese

This plant is almost identical to Paph. phillippinense. The traits that distinguish roebblenii are; the petals, which are much longer than in typical Paph. phillipinese, the petals are much curlier and the flower are larger in roebbelenii.  These plants are quite rare in Puerto Rico, I have ony seen three plants of this variety, all differed slighlty from each other.  The pose no difficulty to grow in Puerto Rico.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dendrobium batanense or Ceraia pseudoequitans' (Fessel & L├╝ckel) M.A.Clem 2004?

I brought this orchid because I was intrigued by its appearance and its growth pattern.  It adapted easily to my climatic conditions.  Because I was concerned that this plant roots could rot during the rainy season I planted it in limestone rock.   During the summer, in my locality, it can rain every single day for months.  The plant originally was potted in fine bark, but in my locality this media would have become waterlogged within days of the start of the rainy season.   Since the plant arrived in my garden it has been producing new canes steadily in a manner that doesn’t seem related to seasonality.   I suspect that if I fertilized the plant more heavily during the rainy season, the canes would be larger, but it hardly seems worth the bother to give more care to a plant that seems to grow well enough with standard care.

During the last two years this orchid has bloomed sporadically with small numbers of blooms.  But a strong rain event, in the middle of April, which is at the height of the dry season, seemed to stimulate this plant to produce buds.  During the weekend of April 19-20 the flowers opened.  A bit over one hundred flowers were present on 17 inflorescences.   A few inflorescences had only two or three flowers most had between six and eight. 

This plant has an untidy growth pattern that give it an appearance resembles a fright wig, so some grooming is desirable.  All the canes of my plant have grown toward the strongest source of light with the result that the plant is asymmetrical with all the canes hanging to one side.  I plan to move it to a place where it will get a more uniform exposure to strong light.   Unlike the flowers of its relative Dendrobium crumenatum, the flowers of Den. batanense last several days.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Dendrobium lindleyi Steud. 1840 with unusually large flowers

I saw this extraordinary plant of Dendrobium lyndleyi some years back in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.  The flowers are far larger than those of any other Dendrobium lyndleyi I have seen anywhere.   They even dwarf the flowers of Den. jenkinsii.  This plant doesn't seem to be a hybrid, it has inflorescences that are much, much larger than those of Den. Ueang Pheung (lyndleyi x jenkinsii).  Unfortunately there seem to be only a few plants of this particular orchid and they are  very closely held by heir owners. Apparently this orchid is very rarely exhibited.

Paphiopedilum philippinense [Rchb.f]Stein 1892, growing in the hot tropical lowlands of Puerto Rico

I brought this plant 1992, as a two fan division of a larger plant.  It was the first Paphiopedilum I ever tried to grow. It adapted to the growing conditions in my locality without any problem.  It has bloomed in 21 of the last 22 years.  At times it has produced more that forty flowers at the same time.  It has proven to be an easy orchid to grow in Puerto Rico.  However it demands attention to the state of its potting media.  Decayed pottting media will cause the plant to lose vigor, start losing leaves and to bloom poorly.

Temperature: Spring, summer and fall the temperatures range from 90F day to 75F night.  In winter temperatures range from middle eighties during the day to between 70F and 65F at night.

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 twice a week in the dry season is enough to keep the plant healthy unless it is very hot and windy.

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

Potting:  I pot it in middle sized bark, in a plastic pot with a layer of two inches of foam peanuts in the bottom of the pot.  The media has to be changed at least every two years or the plant health will decline.  It is currently growing in a 12 inch wide pot which it fill completely with its growths.

Pests:  Few, rarely waxy scales colonize the leaves, but this is a pest that is easily controlled by simply rubbing them carefully off the leaves using alcohol.  

Notes:  My particular clone of this orchid doesn't like to be wet all the time, it grows best when the media is allowed to approach dryness before being watered again.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Renanthera monachica in Puerto Rico damaged by a native orchid weeveil Stethobaris polita

An intact flower for comparison.

Last week I was looking forward to enjoying the beauty of an inflorescence of Renanthera monachica with all its flowers open.  Distressingly, I found that something had damaged the open flowers and some of the buds.  But it was not obvious which animal was causing the damage.  I visited the flowers several times during the day and then found that the culprit for the damage was a native orchid beetle, Statobaris polita.  I checked all my other orchids and the only one that had beetles was the Renanthera.  I only use pesticides as a weapon of last resort.  What I do with these weevils is that when I find them in flowers, I put a small cup with a combination of detergent and alcohol under the flower and then I shake the flower gently.  The weevils will react by helpfully dropping into the cup and partaking of the detergent and the alcohol.  These weevils are a seasonal pest, months can go by without one showing on the flowers and then they start to appear, but never in large numbers.  At the peak of their infestation I can find five to ten a week in the flowers.  They had not been a problem before the exotic orchid Sphatoglottis plicata established large populations in the forest.  I saw the first Sphatoglottis plant in the forest, a white one, in 2004, now they are common and in some places downright abundant.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dendrobium griffithianum Lindl. 1836, the first blooming of my plant

This orchid pleasantly surprised me by blooming from modestly sized pseudobulbs.  The plant body is reminiscent of Den. farmeri, but the flowers have a similarity to those of Den. densiflorum.   This plant canes are decidely tiny compared with the three feet tall canes of Den, densiflorum, but its size is close to that of my plants of Den. farmeri.  As it can be seen a small cane can produce an inflorescence that is larger than itself.   I expect that the plant will produce larger canes and hopefully even larger inflorescences as it gets older.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Brassia Rex 'Waiomao Spotless' not your everyday Brassia hybrid

Unlike my other Brassia hybrids, this one demands that one pays attention to its need if it is to produce its large and impressive inflorescences.  If neglected it produces small pseudobulbs that bloom with inflorescences that are only a fraction of what this plant is capable of producing under optimal conditions.  It needs regular watering and fertilization during its growth phase and bright light.  For me it is a slow and deliberate grower, not in any way like my other Brassia Rex clones, which grow constantly and bloom frequently.  This plant blooms for me just once a year.

Last year's inflorescence, pictured above was larger and had more flower than the 2014.

Grammatoheadia Boynton Leopard a cross of Grammatophyllum elegans and Bromheadia findlaysoniana

Under my climatic conditions, at a 1,000 feet of altitude, near the center of the island of Puerto Rico, this hybrid has proved to be easy to grow.  However it demands good fertilization if the pseudobulbs are to grow to blooming size.  That is the trick with growing and blooming these orchids, when they are in their growth phase they need regular watering and fertilizing coupled with bright light to produce pseudobulbs large enough to bloom.  If neglected they will grow but their pseudobulbs will not reach their full potential and they might not bloom.  This plant gets full sun in the morning from 8:00 am until 11:00 am.  After the pseudobulbs reach their full size I stop fertilizing.  It is a cross between a Grammatophyllum and a Bromheadia, but I see little of the Bromheadia in these flowers.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dendrobium distichum [Presley]Rchb.f 1877, an orchid with waxy, tiny flowers

The plant form of this Dendrobium is interesting by itself.  The flowers, produced at the tip of the canes are very small for a Dendrobium.  You need a magnifying glass to fully appreciate the waxy flowers of this plant.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Potinara Twenty Four Carat growing in full sun

This Cattleya alliance hybrid is growing and thriving under a degree of sun exposure that  would burn most orchids of its genus to a crisp.  Not only that, it is blooming at the height of the local dry season, when cloudless skies mean many hours of intense tropical sun exposure.  The plant is growing in a palm tree in an area near the town of Isabela, Puerto Rico.  The place is also quite windy, so this plant has to deal with very high light levels and warm drying winds.  And yet it is doing well and blooming wonderfully.

Renanthera monachica Ames 1915, one of the smallest species of a genus known for its tall plants

Renanthera is a genus that is know for being a genus of tall plants that produce large inflorescences with dozens of red flowers.  But this genus also has smaller plants which produce flowers in color other than red.  One of the smallest is Renanthera monachica.  I brought this plant last year and today it opened its first flower.  The plant is five inches tall and the inflorescence of has just a few flowers.  Compare this with Renanthera coccinea, I had a plant that was seven feet tall and produced a three feet wide inflorescence that had 144 flowers.  This orchid is doing well in the Rio Abajo climatic conditions and I expect that it will continue growing taller and blooming.  I find it slow growing in comparison with my other Renanthera.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Gongora gratulabunda Rchb. f. 1857

Phalaenopsis Dajao's Red Buddah, even flowers that have been long open and have slightly faded are wonderful

Vanda Crownfox x Ascocenda Red Gem

Paphiopedilum St. Swithin (rothschildianum x phillipinensis) a tropical ladyslipper hybrid with large flowers

Tropical ladyslipper orchids of the genus Paphiopedilum are not a common sight on orchid collections in Puerto Rico.  Large flowered Paph. rothschildianum hybrids are even rarer.  I brought this Paph. St. Swithin as a tiny seedling, frankly I have forgotten the date, probably seven or eight years ago.  This plant grew slowly but surely and I sometimes wondered if it would ever bloom.  Last year it produced its first flowers and in 2014 it has bloomed again.  The flowers are delightful in their own odd way.  They are far larger than those of my phillipinensis plants.  Perhaps the best thing I like about this orchid, aside from the flowers is that it is very easy to cultivate under my conditions, it thrives with the same care I would give any house plant.  The plant is producing new growths and I am looking forward to the time when it will produce two, or maybe, one dare hope, three inflorescences at the same time.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Flower variability "in situ" in a Psychilis macconnelliae Sauleda 1988 population in a small area of coastal habitat in St. Croix

On April 6, 2014, I had the privilege to visit a reserve in St. Croix that hosts a population of Psychilis macconnelliae.  The dry coastal vegetation in which this orchid lives is composed mainly of low woody shrubs and scattered trees.  This type of habitat is hardly welcoming, with many thorny plants and vines that make it at times almost impassable.   The orchids were growing close to the beach.  The strong wind from the sea made taking good photos a difficult challenge as it would shake the flowers even when pains were taken to keep the inflorescence still.    The constant, and at times strong, wind keeps the local temperature from approaching the furnance like feeling one gets in other Caribbean islands in similar habitat but in less windy locations.  The temperature was in the eighties at the moment I visited.  

Because moving in the bush was not a pleasant or easy undertaking, I was only able to see the plants in a very limited area in the time I had to look for them.  However, in the small patch I was able to explore I found many plants.  Happily I was even able to locate plants I had seen during a visit I made last year.  The variability of the flowers surprised me, one would expect that plants growing in such proximity of each other would have flowers that would look very similar.  But this was not the case.  Every parameter of the flowers seemed to show some degree of variation among the ones I photographed.  One thing I can attest, these plants are indeed quite successful at attracting pollinators, seedpods were everywhere.  Here are photos of some of the flowers I saw.