The Rarest Plant in Britain Makes a Ghostly Appearance

Posted July 28th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, In the News

A British ghost haunts the forests. National Geographic details the reappearance of the bizarre Ghost Orchid (different than the famous Ghost Orchid native to Florida.) This spectral orchid, Epipogium aphyllum, only seems to show up in Britain once every few decades. It has no chlorophyll, but instead lives as a parasite on a fungus.

The Ghost Orchid is a rare phantom throughout its huge range from Europe across northern Asia. It’s known to appear once, and then never return to that spot again, leading to it occasionally being declared extinct. But instead of staying dead, it pops up decades later in a completely different location.  Science writer Richard Fortey adds “Nothing I have read explains how a plant with such minute seeds can apparently jump so dramatically from place to place. There is something almost spooky about it.” Learn more about the Ghost Orchid here.

Orchids in the Park 2016

Posted July 25th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Events, Growing Orchids in San Francisco, Photos

Orchids in the Park always bring incredible orchids to Golden Gate Park. This past weekend’s event featured both modern hybrids and spectacular, unusual species. Enjoy the photos from this dazzling show.

Myrmecophila exaltata, aka Schomburgkia exaltata, orchid species flower with wavy petals, Orchids in the Park 2016, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaDracula iricolor, orchid species flower, Pleurothallid, Orchids in the Park 2016, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaMasdevallia flower, Orchids in the Park 2016, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Possibly Phragmipedium besseae, Phrag, Lady Slipper flower, Orchids in the Park 2016, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaEncyclia mariae, aka Euchile mariae, orchid species flowers, Orchids in the Park 2016, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaPaphiopedilum, Lady Slipper flower, Orchids in the Park 2016, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

If this blog sometimes sound like a broken record about the endless diversity of the orchid family, these photos illustrate why. Even veteran orchid growers find surprising shapes and brilliant new color combinations at Orchids in the Park. The dozen examples shown here are only a drop in the bucket of this variety. I’m still sorting through our photos, and I’ll be featuring more of these beauties. Check back soon for additional pictures from this great weekend in Golden Gate Park.

Cattleya Sagarik Wax 'NN', orchid hybrid flower, Orchids in the Park 2016, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaMiltonia Yellow Passion, orchid hybrid flower, Orchids in the Park 2016, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaCalanthe, orchid flower, Orchids in the Park 2016, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Doritis champorensis var alba, Moth Orchid, Phalaenopsis, Phal flower, miniature orchid, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaHolcoglossum kimballianum, orchid species flower, Orchids in the Park 2016, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaHarlequin Phalaenopsis hybrid, Moth Orchid, Phal flower, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Don’t Miss Orchids in the Park This Weekend

Posted July 21st, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Events, Growing Orchids in San Francisco, Photos

Maxillaria fractiflexa, orchid species flower with curved petals, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, CaliforniaCleisocentron gokusingii, miniature orchid species with blue flowers, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, CaliforniaCymbidium aloifolium var simulans, orchid species flower, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, California

Don’t miss Orchids in the Park this weekend! San Francisco’s annual summer orchid show takes place in the County Fair Building at 9th Avenue & Lincoln Way, near the entrance to Strybing Arboretum. These photos from recent years hint at the botanical wonders to expect at this weekend’s event. Besides orchid displays, there will also be vendors, orchid demos, a raffle, and a silent auction. Vendors are always happy to help Bay Area locals find orchid varieties suited for our many microclimates. See you there!

Pleurothallis gargantua, orchid species flower, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, CaliforniaScaphosepalum gibberosum 'Vistamont', miniature orchid species flower, weird flower, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, CaliforniaBulbophyllum orthoglossum, orchid species flwoer, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, California

Close up of Phrag flower lip, possibly Phragmipedium besseae, Lady Slipper, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, CaliforniaDendrobium cuthbertsonii, miniature orchid species flowers, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, CaliforniaVanda flower, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, California

Orchid Cactus

Posted July 19th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: General Gardening, Photos

Don’t be confused by the name — an Orchid Cactus isn’t an orchid, but it does have amazing flowers. Orchid Cacti are tropical succulents with big, vivid blooms that earn an orchid comparison. Also known as epiphyllums, epicacti, or just epis, there are many varieties in a range of brilliant colors, including yellows, pinks, reds, oranges, and white. Their jaw-dropping flowers can be an incredible 10 inches (25 cm) or more.

Side view of red Orchid Cactus flower, Epiphyllum, grown outdoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaPink Orchid Cactus flower, Epiphyllum, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaPink Orchid Cactus flower, Epiphyllum, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Close up of red Orchid Cactus flower, Epiphyllum, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaSmall flower bud growing on red Orchid Cactus, Epiphyllum, grown outdoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaFlower buds growing on red Orchid Cactus, Epiphyllum, grown outdoors in San Francisco, California

Orchid Cacti are native to tropical jungles in Central and South America. They’re larger relatives of popular houseplants like Christmas Cactus. Instead of leaves, they have wide, flat, segmented stems. Growing as air plants like orchids do, they live attached to tree branches without harming the trees. New growth on Orchid Cacti may have small thorns or spines, but these usually disappear as they age. The photos below, showing large Orchid Cacti covering walls and palm tree trunks, were all taken in Hawaii. All the flower photos were taken in San Francisco and Pacifica.

Orchid Cactus, Epiphyllum, large plant growing over a wall on the Big Island of HawaiiOrchid Cactus, Epiphyllum, growing as an air plant on a branch, Koko Crater Botanicl Garden, Oahu, HawaiiOrchid Cactus, enormous Epiphyllum growing up palm trunk, Naalehu, Big Island, Hawaii

Close up of red Orchid Cactus flower, Epiphyllum, grown outdoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaOrchid Cactus, Epiphyllum growing over a wall, Naalehu, Big Island, HawaiiLarge flowers of an Epiphyllum relative, growing outdoors in Pacifica, California

As epiphytes, Orchid Cacti are good for hanging baskets. They bloom best when kept in small pots with rich potting soil. Give them shade with some filtered sun, and regular water in spring and summer. Keep them drier over winter. They do need cool temps in winter, but always keep them above freezing. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, they grow well outdoors. It’s easy to start new plants from stem cuttings. Cut a segment at least 8 inches (20 cm) long. Let the cut end dry for a few days before potting up.

Other closely related cactus species with large flowers are sometimes lumped under the name Orchid Cacti. These include the Hylocereus genus, which grows beautiful and tasty Dragon Fruit. For more info about Orchid Cacti, check Plant Care Today and WikiHow.

Devilish Orchid Discovery

Posted July 15th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News, QuickPost, Videos

Scientists have discovered a devilish new orchid in Colombia. Telipogon diabolicus earns its species name from a dark maroon coloration that resembles a little demon head. So far, it’s only been found in a small patch of land in southern Colombia, and the species is considered critically endangered.

Orchid-Gami

Posted July 10th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, Misc

Orchid-gami is a modern twist on orchids and origami. Kids of all ages can create a beautiful Lady Slipper bloom from a few pieces of paper. Simply download the PDF file, print the pages, cut out the patterns, and follow the instructions to fold together. The North American Orchid Conservation Center (NAOCC) is working with the US Botanic Garden to create patterns for 25 educational models of native orchids. The Showy Lady Slipper, Cypripedium reginae, is the very first model. The file includes info about the orchid, its native habitat, and its conservation challenges. Learn more about North American orchids at NAOCC’s Go Orchids website.

Stenoglottis Orchids, Big and Small

Posted July 6th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Dormancy, Fertilizing, Growing, Intermediate Growers, Mini Orchids, Photos, Watering

These charming flowers belong to two related orchids, Stenoglottis longifolia and Stenoglottis woodii. They’re some of the easiest African orchid species to grow. The first half-dozen photos show Stenoglottis longifolia. Even though its blooms are small, this species can grow into a big plant. The flowers feature brilliant purple spots and a fringed lip. Dozens of blooms crowd onto each flower spike, and newly emerging buds continue to open for months.

Stenoglottis longifolia, side view of orchid species flowers, grown indoors in San FranciscoStenoglottis longifolia, orchid species flower buds emerging from flower stem, grown indoors in San FranciscoStenoglottis longifolia, orchid species flowers, grown indoors in San Francisco

Stenoglottis longifolia, side-view close-up of orchid species flower, grown indoors in San FranciscoStenoglottis longifolia, orchid species flowers, grown indoors in San FranciscoStenoglottis longifolia, orchid species flowers, grown indoors in San Francisco

Stenoglottis woodii, in the photos below, is a miniature. It’s a much smaller plant than its relative, but its light pink flowers are almost the same size. My plant fills a 2.5 inch (6.4 cm) flowerpot, and with limited indoor growing space, I always appreciate a mini orchid.

Stenoglottis woodii, flowers and buds on growing flower spike of miniature orchid species, grown indoors in San FranciscoStenoglottis woodii, flowers of miniature African orchid species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaStenoglottis woodii, close up of flower of miniature African orchid species, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

Stenoglottis woodii, leaves and flowers of miniature African orchid species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaStenoglottis woodii, flowers of miniature African orchid species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaStenoglottis woodii, flowers of miniature African orchid species, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

Both species grow as terrestrials in southern Africa. With thin leaves, they need high humidity. Grow in bright light, and be careful that any direct sun doesn’t burn them. Give them regular water and fertilizer while they’re growing and blooming. Stenoglottis are deciduous. Their leaves die back over winter, while their fleshy roots lay dormant underneath. Keep them cooler and drier, but don’t let the potting mix dry completely. New leaves will emerge in spring, when watering can be increased again. Big or small, Stenoglottis orchids are delightful and easy to grow.

July Orchid Shows

Posted June 30th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, Events

The Southern Hemisphere is busy with shows this month in Australia, Brazil, and South Africa. Big events also happen in the USA, UK, and Singapore, including Orchids in the Park in San Francisco, the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show near London, and the Singapore Garden Festival.

July 1 – 3
Exposição Nacional de Orquídeas de Assis, ACIA, Av. Antônio Zuardi, 970, Vila Operaria, Assis, São Paulo, Brazil
July 2 – 3
Victorian Country Orchid Clubs Challenge, Lutheran School Stadium, Trinity Dr., Horsham, Victoria, Australia
July 2 – 3
Shoalhaven Orchid Society Winter Show, Berry Showground Pavilion, Victoria St., Berry, NSW, Australia
July 2 – 3
Illawarra & District Orchid Society Show, Senior Citizens Hall, Benaud Crescent, Warilla, NSW, Australia
July 5 – 10
RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey, UK
July 8 – 9
Eurobodalla Orchid Club Winter Show, CWA Hall, Queen St., Moruya, NSW, Australia
July 8 – 10
Orquídeas no Museu, Museu da Republica, Rua do Catete, 153, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
July 8 – 10
Exposição Nacional de Orquídeas de Araraquara, Shopping Lupo Araraquara, Rua Gonçalves Dias 543, Centro, Araraquara, São Paulo, Brazil
July 8 – 10
Exposição Nacional de Orquídeas de Goiânia, Rua 1, 615, Setor Oeste, Bosque dos Buritis, Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil
July 9
Neofinetia falcata Show & Judging, Cal-Orchid, 1251 Orchid Dr., Santa Barbara, California

Read the rest of this post »

Vanilla: From Concern to Crisis

Posted June 25th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: In the News, Warm Growers

Vanilla, the world’s most delicious orchid, has been going up in price. The beans are more expensive due to several factors, including a poor crop in Madagascar, the world’s biggest producer. Other problems include speculators who hoard the beans, previous years of low prices when farmers switched to other crops, and criminals who use the beans to launder dirty money from the illegal rosewood trade.

Vanilla farmers around the world are facing other problems, also. Since most farmers use genetic clones, the vines may be vulnerable to disease. Wild Vanilla planifolia is increasingly rare in its native Latin American range, and this reduces essential genetic diversity. Habitat destruction threatens remaining wild populations, and also threatens pollinators. Despite these worries, as the second most expensive spice after saffron, vanilla farmers will find a way to keep growing those delicious beans.

The Longest Days

Posted June 20th, 2016 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, General Gardening, Photos

The summer solstice brings the longest days and shortest nights of the year. Humans, like plants, love that extra sunshine. To help celebrate today’s solstice, here are more photos from Dave’s recent visit to the Montreal Botanical Garden. I’ve already devoted two posts to the garden, and there’s still more to see. No orchids in this post, but there’s lots of botanical beauty.

Dichorisandra thyrsiflora, Blue Ginger flowers, in bloom at the Montreal Botanical Garden, CanadaReception Centre Garden with tropical flowers and plants at the Montreal Botanical Garden, CanadaBegonia with white-spotted leaves at the Montreal Botanical Garden, Canada

Chinese Garden gate at the Montreal Botanical Garden, CanadaLilac in bloom at the Montreal Botanical Garden, CanadaGinkgo biloba bonsai, Montreal Botanical Garden, Canada

Whether it’s a fragrant lilac, a field of tulips, or a 275-year-old bonsai, plants grow with extra vigor in the extra hours of sunshine. More light means more photosynthesis, which means more energy for growth and blooms. Of course, it doesn’t work the same way for humans, but I certainly thrive with the long days. Maybe it’s just because there’s extra time to work in our garden and enjoy the orchids. I hope your solstice gives you time to enjoy some natural beauty, too.

Ferns Greenhouse with waterfall, Montreal Botanical Garden, CanadaJuniperus chinensis var. sargentii, Sargent Juniper bonsai, 275 year old bonsai at the Montreal Botanical Garden, CanadaJapanese Garden at the Montreal Botanical Garden, Canada

Field of tulips at the Montreal Botanical Garden, CanadaTulips, fountain, and administration building at the Montreal Botanical Garden, CanadaFlower with bees at the Montreal Botanical Garden, Canada