July Orchid Shows

Posted July 1st, 2015 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, Events, Growing Orchids in San Francisco

The orchid world focuses on the southern hemisphere this month, with busy show schedules in Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, and South Africa. There are still shows up north, too, in Louisiana, Iowa, Hawaii, Ontario, and more. San Francisco Bay Area residents, don’t miss Orchids in the Park in Golden Gate Park on July 25th-26th! Enjoy incredible orchids on display and on sale at San Francisco’s smaller annual orchid show.

July 2 – 4
Hawkesbury District Orchid Society Show, Windsor Riverview Shopping Centre, George St., Windsor, NSW, Australia
July 3 – 5
Exposicao Nacional de Orquideas de Assis, ACIA, Av. Antonio Zuardi, 970, Vila Cambui, Assis, Sao Paulo, Brazil
July 3 – 5
Caboolture Orchid Society Show, Morayfield Community Centre, Morayfield Rd., Morayfield, Queensland, Australia
July 4 – 5
Alfred County Orchid Society Winter Show, Methodist Church, Margate, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
July 4 – 5
New Zealand Orchid Society Winter Show, Mt. Albert War Memorial Hall, 751 New North Rd., Mt. Albert, New Zealand
July 4 – 5
Victorian Country Orchid Clubs Challenge, Cobden Technical School, McKenzie Rd., Cobden, Victoria, Australia
July 4 – 5
Illawarra Orchid Society Show, Senior Citizens Centre, Warilla, NSW, Australia
July 4 – 5
Shoalhaven Orchid Society Winter Show, Berry Showground Pavilion, Victoria St., Berry, NSW, Australia
July 5
Southern Ontario Orchid Society Summerfest, Toronto Botanical Gardens, 777 Lawrence Ave. E., North York, Ontario, Canada
July 7 – 8
Atherton Tableland Orchid Society Winter Show, Anglican Church Hall, Vernon St., Atherton, Queensland, Australia

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Beauty Drives Orchids Towards Extinction

Posted June 27th, 2015 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

A distressing study of Asian orchid species reports that many are threatened with extinction. Habitat destruction, deforestation, and illegal sales of wild plants are destroying these beauties. The Center for International Forestry Research in Indonesia inspected Thai flower markets, and found hundreds of endangered species for sale. Even though it’s illegal to sell these plants taken from the wild, the laws are almost never enforced. The study’s authors have called for better monitoring of these species, and improved enforcement of conservation laws.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) also has a sad update that almost all Asian Lady Slipper orchid species are highly endangered. It’s not all bad news, however. Conservation efforts to save some threatened animal species, such as the Iberian Lynx and Guadalupe Fur Seal, are succeeding, and this proves that these efforts do work. Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General, said “But this update is also a wake-up call, reminding us that our natural world is becoming increasingly vulnerable. The international community must urgently step up conservation efforts if we want to secure this fascinating diversity of life that sustains, inspires and amazes us every day.”

Summer Orchid Adventure

Posted June 21st, 2015 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Photos

Phalaenopsis Mambo, Moth Orchid hybrid, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, CaliforniaZygopetalum Warringal Wonder, orchid hybrid with green white and purple flowers, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, CaliforniaDendrobium rigidum, mini orchid species, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, California

Welcome summer’s arrival with amazing orchids. These brilliant tropical blooms celebrate the summer solstice with warmth and beauty. Within your own home, orchids can transport you to the depths of a tropical jungle, or to the heights of a cloud forest. If you take a summer vacation, orchids may entice you into a far-flung botanical garden, or into a living, breathing rainforest. Here’s to a summer orchid adventure!

Brassolaeliocattleya Memoria Vida Lee 'Light Lime' AM/AOS, Cattleya hybrid, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, Californiapossibly Phragmipedium besseae, Lady Slipper orchid with red and yellow flowers, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, CaliforniaDendrobium laevifolium, mini orchid species with bright pink flowers, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, California

These photos are from last year’s Orchids in the Park, held in Golden Gate Park. This year’s event is coming up on July 25-26. It’s definitely on my summer orchid calendar.

Botanic Gardens Conservation International

Posted June 16th, 2015 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, Conservation

Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) is the world’s largest plant conservation network, and it’s trying to save the planet’s plants. Based at Kew in London, the group’s membership includes over 800 botanic gardens from 118 countries. These gardens work together to share info, battle climate change, educate the public about the environment, and coordinate protection efforts. BGCI currently runs large conservation projects in China, North America, Russia, and the Mid East. Check out the Eastern Prairie White Fringed Orchid, one of the species they’re working to save in Illinois.  You can help by donating, becoming an individual member, and supporting your own local botanical garden.

Bee Orchids

Posted June 10th, 2015 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, Videos

Bee Orchids know how to appeal to bees. In the first video below, a botanist from London’s Natural History Museum explores the elaborate deceptions of these fascinating plants. Also known as Ophrys apifera, Bee Orchids mimic the appearance and pheromones of their namesake bugs to trick them into pollinating their flowers. The video also shows a related species, the Late Spider Orchid, Ophrys fuciflora, which is another insect mimic.

Like many orchids, Bee Orchids attract only one species of pollinator. That may not seem like an efficient strategy, but it helps the plants deliver their pollen to flowers of the same species. The next video shows another Ophrys variety, the False Spider Orchid, which also has great bee-appeal.

To learn more about orchid pollination strategies, check out this great Oxford University Press blog post about orchid deception.

Orchid Care For A Hot Summer

Posted June 5th, 2015 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Fertilizing, Growing, Photos, Warm Growers, Watering

Summer is coming, and it looks like it’s going to be a hot one. Orchids can survive heat waves with some basic care tips. Check these helpful hints when temperatures soar.

  • Give orchids water when they dry out, but be careful not to drown your plants. High humidity is more important than repeated waterings in hot weather.
  • Place plants into shade. Move orchids away from windows and out of direct sun to prevent leaf scorching.
  • Keep humidity levels high. Most orchids can handle increased heat as long as it is matched by increased humidity. Raise humidity by grouping plants together, or placing plants in a humid area, like a bathroom or kitchen. Use a spray mister. Balance flowerpots on pebbles in trays of water, always keeping the pots raised above the water level.
  • Fertilize less in hot weather. In high heat, orchids can’t metabolize plant food.
  • Cool nights help a lot. If temps drop nightly, even cool growers can handle daytime heat waves for a while.
  • If hot weather is a regular feature of your climate, you can still grow orchids. Choose warm growers, like Vandas, Cattleyas, and Spathoglottis, shown in the photos below.
  • Always treat clean water as a valuable resource. Water conservation is an important consideration for all orchid growers.

Vanda orchid flowers and leaves, Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, HawaiiCattleya Chan Hsiu Jewel 'Shang Mei', orchid hybrid, Pacific Orchid Expo 2014, San Francisco, California Spathoglottis flowers, pink and yellow orchid hybrid, Foster Botanical Garden, Honolulu, Hawaii

June Orchid Shows

Posted June 1st, 2015 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, Events

Orchid shows are happening in every hemisphere, along with other interesting orchid events. The four-day Native Orchid Conference in New Hampshire includes field trips to see wild orchids in the White Mountains. In Southern California, the Orchid Digest Speakers’ Day is a feast of orchid experts, a great show, and dinner, too.

June 1 – 4
Native Orchid Conference, Town & Country Motor Inn, 2 Main St., Gorham, New Hampshire
June 5 – 6
Bruce Peninsula Orchid Festival, Park Visitor Centre, Chi-Sintib’dek Rd. off Hwy. 6, Tobermory, Ontario, Canada
June 5 – 7
San Jose Orchid Exposition, Winchester Mystery House, 525 S. Winchester Blvd., San Jose, California
June 5 – 7
Exposicao Nacional de Orquideas de Catalao, Salao do Crac, Catalao, Goias, Brazil
June 5 – 7
Exposicao Nacional de Orquideas de Vespasiano, Praca de Esportes, Vespasiano, Minas Gerais, Brazil
June 5 – 7
Exposicao Nacional de Orquideas de Porto Feliz, Shopping Porto Miller Boulevard, Rua Ademar de Barros, 345, Porto Feliz, Sao Paulo, Brazil
June 5 – 8
Encuentro y Exposicion de Orquideas, Jardin Botanico Jose Celestino Mutis, Av. 63 No. 68-95, Bogota, Colombia
June 6 – 7
Melbourne Eastern Orchid Society Winter Show, Uniting Church, Burwood Hwy. & Blackburn Rd., Burwood East, Victoria, Australia
June 6 – 7
Southport & Districts Orchid Society Show, Albert Waterways Community Centre, 91 Sunshine Blvd., Broadbeach, Mermaid Waters, Queensland, Australia
June 6 – 7
Camden Haven Orchid Society Show, Laurieton United Services Club, Seymour St., Laurieton, NSW, Australia

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Lepanthopsis – Tiny Orchids With a Long Name

Posted May 28th, 2015 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Growing, Intermediate Growers, Mini Orchids, Photos

Tiny Lepanthopsis astrophora has a name that’s bigger than the plant itself. This miniature orchid species is an eager bloomer, with lots of flowers resembling little purple stars. Fortunately, this small Masdevallia relative is easier to grow than it is to pronounce.

Lepanthopsis astrophora, miniature orchid species, grown indoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaLepanthopsis astrophora, miniature orchid species, grown indoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaLepanthopsis astrophora, miniature orchid species, grown indoors in San Francisco, California

It’s a challenge to get pictures of these mini blossoms, which seem to sparkle in bright light. Each fully formed flower is just 3/16 inch (5 mm) tall. New blooms keep appearing for months, helping this orchid earn its species name, astrophora, which means “star producing.”

Lepanthopsis astrophora flower close up, miniature orchid species, grown indoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaLepanthopsis astrophora flower close up, side view of flower, miniature orchid species, grown indoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaLepanthopsis astrophora flowers, miniature orchid species, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

As a native to coastal rainforests in Venezuela and Colombia, these plants needs daily water, constant high humidity, and good air movement. Don’t be intimidated by the long name — Lepanthopsis astrophora is a great little orchid gem.

Lepanthopsis astrophora flower buds and leaves, miniature orchid species, grown indoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaLepanthopsis astrophora flowers, miniature orchid species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLepanthopsis astrophora flowers, miniature orchid species, grown indoors in San Francisco, California

Flower Power Fights Pests

Posted May 22nd, 2015 by Marc Cohen
Categories: General Gardening, In the News, Photos

What if you could improve the health of your garden by adding more flowers? Washington State University researchers have discovered that Sweet Alyssum attracts lots of beneficial insects. These insects provide natural pest control by hunting bugs which munch on garden greenery. After experimenting with a few types of plants, researchers found that Sweet Alyssum attracted the most beneficials.

Sweet Alyssum, Lobularia maritimaSweet Alyssum flowers close up, Lobularia maritimaSweet Alyssum, Lobularia maritima, growing outdoors in Pacifica, California

Sweet Alyssum is a fragrant Mediterranean native, often grown as a tough, drought-tolerant groundcover. Clusters of tiny flowers emit a strong, sweet honey scent. This annual species is easy to grow, and reseeds readily. In hot climates, it prefers shade, but in cooler climates, it enjoys full sun. Cut the old flowers back to encourage new blooms. I’ve seen many varieties of pink and purple, but white flowers seem to be the most popular.

Attracting beneficial insects is a great non-toxic way to control pests. This and other natural strategies, like using carnivorous plants, can spare you dangerous chemicals, and actually add life to your garden. For those growing orchids outdoors, Sweet Alyssum is a winning addition.

The Yellow Lady’s Slipper, Afoot in Central Park

Posted May 18th, 2015 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, In the News

Much to everybody’s surprise, there’s a rare, native Lady’s Slipper blooming in Central Park. The New York Times reports that a dozen flower buds have been growing over the past few weeks, and they’re starting to open. The plant is the Yellow Lady’s Slipper, also known as Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens. This orchid species is native to almost all of the USA and Canada, but increasingly rare. It once bloomed in New York City, but its large, brilliant flowers can’t help but be noticed, and it disappeared long before the skyscrapers arrived. In an attempt to bring it back, Central Park staff had purchased and planted one in the Ramble.

Introduced by woodland managers for the Central Park Conservancy well over a decade ago, the plant was purchased from a reputable grower and planted at a time when the orchids were only beginning to be commercially available. It was then forgotten until it began blooming two years later, to the surprise of both staff and urban ecologists. I imagine the first naturalist to recount this rarest of Manhattan sightings must have been greeted as if he were reporting an alien abduction.

The return of this “ethereal masterwork of nature” to New York City is surprising enough, but its public location is even more so. Despite thousands of park visitors passing the orchid daily, it has not been damaged or dug up, which often seems to be the fate of these beautiful Lady’s Slippers. Please remember that native orchids are endangered, and you should never pick a wild orchid or dig up the plant. It’s illegal, and the trauma almost always kills it.