An Orchid Obsession in New Zealand

Posted December 10th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, In the News, QuickPost

New Zealand’s native orchids are not big and showy like their tropical cousins, but they sure can inspire an orchid obsession. The article includes half a dozen photos of native species at Orokonui Ecosanctuary.

Four Gentlemen on a Flowerpot

Posted December 5th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Books, Cool Growers, Fragrant Orchids, Misc, Photos

The Chinese artistic theme of the Four Gentlemen refers to four plants, including an orchid. Recently, while Dave and I were enjoying dinner at a local restaurant, I spotted a nearby flowerpot illustrating the Four Gentlemen. I can’t read Chinese, so I don’t know what the writing says, but I recognized each plant. The first row of photos depicts one side of the flowerpot. It features a centuries-old Chinese style of painting Cymbidium orchids with long, graceful leaves. The second photo zooms in on the flowers, and the third photo shows the smaller leaves and roots.

Cymbidium orchid leaves and flowers, illustrated as part of the Four Gentleman on a Chinese flower pot, Pacifica, CaliforniaCymbidium orchid flowers and leaves, illustrated as part of the Four Gentleman on a Chinese flower pot, Pacifica, CaliforniaCymbidium orchid small leaves and roots, illustrated as part of the Four Gentleman on a Chinese flower pot, Pacifica, California

The Four Gentlemen, also called the Four Noble Ones, are orchid, bamboo, plum, and chrysanthemum. For over a thousand years, Asian artists have drawn this quartet. Each symbolizes a season, as well as human moral qualities. Orchids represent spring, and also nobility, elegance, integrity, and friendship. There are many orchid species native to East Asia, but this artistic genre usually portrays small, fragrant Cymbidiums. The traditional painting style emphasizes their arching leaves instead of their flowers. Each leaf is drawn with a single brushstroke, done with the same precision and artistry as Chinese calligraphy. The next two photos below show modern cultivars of the types typically drawn in this style. The third photo depicts orchid leaves and flower buds on the flowerpot.

Cymbidium ensifolium Keiran small, orchid species, type of orchid traditionally illustrated as one of the Four Gentlemen in Chinese art, long graceful leaves, plant and flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2011, San Francisco, CaliforniaCymbidium goeringii Routoen, orchid species, type of orchid traditionally illustrated as one of the Four Gentlemen in Chinese art, long graceful leaves and flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2013, San Francisco, CaliforniaCymbidium orchid flower buds and leaves, illustrated as part of the Four Gentleman on a Chinese flower pot, Pacifica, California

The final pictures feature the other three sides of the flowerpot with the other three gentlemen. There’s a bamboo for summer, mums for autumn, and a flowering plum for winter.

Bamboo plant and leaves, illustrated as part of the Four Gentleman on a Chinese flower pot, Pacifica, CaliforniaChrysanthemum flowers and leaves, mums, illustrated as part of the Four Gentleman on a Chinese flower pot, Pacifica, CaliforniaPlum blossoms on branches, illustrated as part of the Four Gentleman on a Chinese flower pot, Pacifica, California

The Four Gentlemen have long been woven into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese painting and pottery. In fact, Mahjong players may recognize this group, since the Four Gentlemen are often seen on the game’s flower tiles. For more info, check out The Garden Plants of China, which has a lot on the histories of traditional orchids and other popular varieties.

December Orchid Events

Posted November 30th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Events

The slowest month of the year for orchid shows still features events on three continents. Many orchid societies also have holiday sales and auctions this month, so check with your local group for more.

December 1 – 4
Exposición Internacional de Orquídeas, Convento de Santo Domingo, Catedral de Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala
December 3
Acadian Orchid Society Short Course & Show, Wyndham Garden Lafayette, 1801 West Pinhook Rd., Lafayette, Louisiana
December 3 – 4
Orchid, Garden & Gourmet Food Festival, Bonnet House, 900 N. Birch Rd., Fort Lauderdale, Florida
December 3 – 4
ExpOrquídea, Rosaleda Ramón Ortiz, Parque del Oeste, Calle Rosaleda, 2, Madrid, Spain
December 3 – 4 & 10 – 11
Festival de Orquídeas, Orquidário Oriental, Estr. São Bento-Lambari, Km 27, B° Itapeti, Mogi das Cruzes, São Paulo, Brazil
December 6
Royal Horticultural Society Orchid Committee Show, RHS Halls, Vincent Square, London, UK
December 8
CCSF Horticulture Center Holiday Plant Sale, Ocean Campus Horticulture Center, 370-375 Judson Ave., San Francisco, California
December 9 – 11
Exposição Nacional de Orquídeas de Londrina, Salão da Sociedade São Vicente de Paulo, Av. Madre Leonia Milito, 499, Centro, Londrina, Paraná, Brazil
December 9 – 11
Exposição Nacional de Orquídeas de Ribeirão Preto, Ipanema Clube, Rua Fernão Sales, 46, Campos Elísios, Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil
December 10
North of England Orchid Society Meeting & Show, St. Peter’s Church, Cecil St., Hale, Cheshire, UK
December 21
Golden Gate Cymbidium Society Holiday Auction & Potluck Dinner, Lakeside Garden Center, Lake Merritt, 666 Bellevue Dr., Oakland, California

Orchid Snack Food

Posted November 26th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News, Misc

As the BBC reports, chikanda is a traditional food in parts of Zambia and Tanzania, made from the tubers of local orchids. These tubers look like little potatoes. They are cooked with peanuts and chilies into savory cakes resembling meatloaf, and called chikanda. Swedish botanist Sarina Veldman has been studying the DNA of tubers for sale in African markets, and has found over 80 different species. These include many different types of Disa, Habenaria, and Satyrium orchids. Unfortunately, increasing commercial demand and habitat loss are endangering these local orchids. As collectors go farther, neighboring countries are also losing many of their native terrestrial species. Veldman and other scientists are hoping that sustainable practices, like bringing the orchids into cultivation, will reduce pressures on wild plants. Some steps have already been taken, such as the creation of Kitulo National Park in Tanzania, which protects an area of rich botanical diversity known as the “Serengeti of Flowers.” Scientists and local peoples will need to work together to find more solutions to conserve these fascinating orchids and this popular snack food.

Wild Orchids Bloom Across Australian Capital

Posted November 22nd, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: In the News, Orchids in the Wild, QuickPost

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that tens of thousands of wild orchids have bloomed around Canberra. After a very wet winter across the Australian Capital Territory, dozens of different orchid species are putting on a show. With common names like Donkey Orchids, Beard Orchids, and Helmet Orchids, they have a myriad of fascinating sizes and shapes. Government conservation officer Dr. Michael Mulvaney added “There are as many orchids [species] on Black Mountain than there are in the whole of Great Britain so we’re blessed by our diversity of orchid.”

A Beautiful Coelia Orchid

Posted November 19th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Dormancy, Fragrant Orchids, Intermediate Growers, Photos, Watering

Coelia bella is a great orchid species, both easy to grow and easy to pronounce. Its charming purple, white, and yellow flowers give off a light marzipan or almond oil fragrance.

Coelia bella, orchid species flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCoelia bella, orchid species flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCoelia bella, orchid species flower and buds, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

To say Coelia, ignore the “o” and say Celia like the woman’s name, SEE-Lee-Ah. The second part of its Latin name, bella, translates as beautiful. In the wild, this species lives from southern Mexico through Central America in rainforests up to 5000 feet (1500 m) in elevation.

Coelia bella, orchid species flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCoelia bella, orchid species flowers and bud, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCoelia bella, orchid species flowers and buds, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Coelia bella, orchid species flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCoelia bella, orchid species flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCoelia bella, close up of orchid species flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

In addition to its lovely flowers, this orchid is also known for its distinctive, egg-shaped pseudobulbs (some of them look more like fat tomatoes than eggs!) My plant happily grows outdoors all year in a partly sunny area next to our house. I give it regular water, fertilizer, and a winter dormancy. This variety can handle a wide range of temperatures. It needs extra care during repotting to avoid damage to roots. The last photo below shows two fat pseudobulbs and a flower spike hanging out of the pot, indicating that my plant is overdue for repotting. But that obviously hasn’t slowed down the flower show on this beautiful Coelia.

Coelia bella, orchid species flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCoelia bella, orchid species buds, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCoelia bella, orchid species pseudobulbs and emerging flower spike, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Saving Minnesota’s Rare Orchids Before It’s Too Late

Posted November 14th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, Cool Growers, In the News

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is working to conserve rare native orchids. The Arboretum is building a seed bank for all of the state’s 48 native species, including the official state flower, the Showy Lady’s Slipper. The effort is part of a larger conservation project, headed by the Smithsonian Institution, to preserve seeds from all of the USA’s native orchids. Since many of these orchids are rare, and their seeds are as small as dust, collecting them is a real challenge. “A lot of orchids are the first species to disappear from a landscape,” said plant expert David Remucal. “We could be losing a lot of these landscapes over the next 50 years, so we could be losing a lot of these orchid populations.”

Orchids on the Rocks

Posted November 6th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Books, Growing, Photos

Orchids on the rocks? No, it’s not another post about ice cubes or climate change. Instead, it’s about orchids which actually grow on rocks. Attached by their roots, orchids may wedge into stony crevices or hang off sheer mountain cliffs. Many orchids which are air plants can affix to both trees and rocks. The first three photos show a few species which can grow this way: a Dendrobium, a Laelia, and a Sarcochilus.

Dendrobium kingianum, orchid species, sometimes grows as a lithophyte, Pacific Orchid Expo 2016, San Francisco, CaliforniaLaelia crispata, orchid species with bright yellow flowers, rupicolous Laelia, lithophyte, Pacific Orchid Expo 2011, San Francisco, CaliforniaSarcochilus hartmanii, Australian orchid species, grown outdoors in San Francisco, California

Plants which grow on rocks are called lithophytes. Gardeners may also hear the word rupicolous, which has the same meaning.  Lithophytes in the orchid family include some Lady Slippers, Dendrobiums, Sarcochilus, Cattleyas, Bulbophyllums, Oncidiums, Angraecums, and many more. Their roots cling to rough stone surfaces, and expand into cracks and crevices to help secure themselves. They may live in pockets of soil or rotting leaves which provide them with nutrients. Some of the pictures below show how their white roots attach to rocks.

Orchid growing attached to rock, lithophyte, Vallarta Botanical Gardens, Puerto Vallarta, MexicoEpidendrum orchid attached to rock, lithophyte, Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, Volcano, HawaiiClose up of orchid roots of Epidendrum attached to rock, lithophyte, Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, Volcano, Hawaii

Epidendrum roots attached to rock, lithophyte, Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, HawaiiOrchid growing in lava rocks, near Maku'u Farmer's Market, Pahoa, Big Island, HawaiiOrchid growing in moss-covered rocks, lithophyte, Vallarta Botanical Gardens, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Keeping orchids as lithophytes can be tricky. Rock can quickly heat up in direct sun, and flat areas may not drain well, so it’s important to pay careful attention to light, water, and humidity. The standard advice is to grow lithophytes like air plants, keeping them in well-drained pots with bark or moss, rather than risking them on stone. For the adventurous, Growing Orchids in Your Garden by Robert G.M. Friend has a chapter on lithophytes, including which varieties work best.

Orchid growing attached to large rock, lithophyte, Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiOrchid growing attached to rocks, lithophyte, Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Papaikou, Big Island, HawaiiOrchid growing attached to bricks, lithophyte, Montreal Botanical Garden, Montreal, Canada

For more photos of orchid on the rocks, check out this blog post about plants in Cambodia.

November Orchid Shows

Posted November 1st, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, Events

From Santa Barbara to Paris to Tasmania, don’t miss these opportunities to see wondrous flowers, take photos, talk with orchid experts, and purchase plants.

November 3 – 5
Mornington Peninsula Orchid Society Show, Gateway Shopping Centre, 230 Cranbourne Rd., Langwarrin, Victoria, Australia
November 4 – 6
Massachusetts Orchid Society Show & Sale, Mahoney’s Garden Center, 242 Cambridge St., Winchester, Massachusetts
November 4 – 6
Feria de Orquídeas de Estepona, Orquidario de Estepona, Calle Terraza 86, Estepona, Málaga, Spain
November 4 – 6
Expo-Vente d’Orchidées, Grande Halle de L’Union, Rue du Somport, 31240 L’Union, France
November 4 – 6
Exposição Nacional de Orquídeas de Botucatu, Clube Dragões da Vila, Rua Galvão Severino, 240, Vila dos Lavradores, São Paulo, Brazil
November 4 – 6
Exposição Nacional de Orquídeas de Indaiatuba, Clube 9 de Julho, Av. Pres. Vargas, 2000, Indaiatuba, São Paulo, Brazil
November 5
Tasmanian Orchid Society Sarcochilus & Masdevallia Show, Legacy Hall, 159 Macquarie St., Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
November 5 – 6
Northwest Orchid Society Fall Show & Sale, Swansons Nursery, 9701 15th Ave. NW, Seattle, Washington
November 5 – 6
Kansas Orchid Society Fall Show & Sale, Botanica, The Wichita Gardens, 701 N. Amidon St., Wichita, Kansas
November 5 – 6
Shreveport Orchid Society Fall Show, Sci-Port, 820 Clyde Fant Pkwy., Shreveport, Louisiana

Read the rest of this post »

Orchids from Another Planet

Posted October 28th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Misc, Photos

If we ever found flowers on another planet, could they possibly be stranger than these earthly orchids? Some of these blooms look like visitors from Mars or Neptune.

Masdevallia caudivolvula, orchid species with spiral petals, pinwheel flower, Pleurothallid, Pacific Orchid Expo 2009, San Francisco, CaliforniaPsychopsis flower, Butterfly Orchid, Orchids in the Park 2013, San Francisco, CaliforniaProsthechea cochleata, aka Encyclia cochleata, clamshell orchid or cockleshell orchid or Octopus Orchid, Pacific Orchid Expo 2008, San Francisco, California

Despite their alien facades, they’re simply members of the enormous orchid family, which has diversity beyond measure. Their long Latin names, like Masdevallia caudivolvula and Sigmatostalix posadarum, are sometimes bigger than the blooms themselves. They may resemble birds in flight or deep sea creatures, but they don’t look much like flowers.

Sigmatostalix posadarum, miniature orchid species, flower that looks like a bird, Pacific Orchid Expo 2009, San Francisco, CaliforniaStanhopea flower, Orchids in the Park 2012, San Francisco, CaliforniaGongora truncata, orchid species, flower that looks like a bird, Pacific Orchid Expo 2010, San Francisco, California

Pleurothallis cyanea, orchid species, Pacific Orchid Expo 2009, San Francisco, CaliforniaPossibly Dracula chestertonii, orchid species, Pleurothallid, Pacific Orchid Expo 2015, San Francisco, CaliforniaDendrobium spectabile, orchid species, flower close up, Pacific Orchid Expo 2016, San Francisco, California

In choosing photos for this post, out of many years of our orchid show pictures, the Bulbophyllums truly stood out. This large, diverse group of orchids has lots of weird blooms. The last row of photos below shows three Bulbophyllum examples, but there were many more. Don’t these flowers look like they could have come from another planet?

Bulbophyllum flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2009, San Francisco, CaliforniaBulbophyllum flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2006, San Francisco, CaliforniaBulbophyllum falcatum v. falcatum, orchid species, Orchid Society of NW Pennsylvania Show 2010, Erie, Pennsylvania