The Equinox Blues

Posted September 22nd, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Photos

Bardendrum orchid hybrid flowers, Epidendrum calanthum x Barkeria whartoniana, pink white and yellow flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, CaliforniaPabstia jugosa x Zygopetalum BG White 4N, orchid hybrid flower, Zygo, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, CaliforniaDendrobium lasianthera hybrid, Antelope Dendrobium Orchid flower, flower with twisted petals, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, California

Brassocattleya Roman Holiday flowers, Cattleya hybrid flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, CaliforniaCymbidium orchid flower, Chinese type Cymbidium flower and leaves, green flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, CaliforniaMormolyca gracilipes, orchid species flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, California

We’ve got the equinox blues. No, no, there aren’t any blue flowers here. These blues are the sadness kind, arising from a pandemic, climate change catastrophes, and a fascist government in this country that’s already cheating in the next election. Fortunately, pretty flowers are a great distraction. Celebrate today’s equinox, and enjoy these stunning blooms from an old orchid show. They’re a momentary respite from all the bad things that are happening. Draw strength from them. We all need it.

Dendrobium smilliae 'Lea' x sib, orchid species flowers, white pink and green flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, CaliforniaBulbophyllum gracillimum flowers, orchid species flowers, Cirrhopetalum, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, CaliforniaEpidendrum Green Hornet, orchid hybrid flowers, Encyclia, squid orchid, octopus orchid, clamshell orchid, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, California

Epidendrum radioferens, orchid species flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, CaliforniaOdontioda Haniespin, orchid hybrid flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, CaliforniaCattleya orchid hybrid flowers, frilled flower lips, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, California

Fuchsia Flower Power

Posted September 18th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: General Gardening, Photos

Fuchsia hybrid flower, white and bright pink flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaFuchsia flower, close up of small pink and purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaFuchsia hybrid flower, pink and purple flower, Strybing Arboretum, Golden Park Park, San Francisco, California

Fuchsia hybrid flowers, Flower Dome Conservatory, Gardens by the Bay nature park, SingaporeFuchsia hybrid flowers, Flower Dome Conservatory, Gardens by the Bay nature park, SingaporeFuchsia flowers, tubular red flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Fuchsias have lots of flower power, and are perennial garden favorites for humans and hummingbirds. They feature charming blooms which dangle like bells in soft pastel colors, or bright reds, pinks, or purples. They’re great companion plants for orchids, too. Our fuchsias, shown in the first two photos above, grow happily in the sun alongside the cool-growing Cymbidiums, Epidendrums, and Dendrobiums that live on our back patio all year.

Fuchsia hybrid flowers, pink flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaFuchsia hybrid flowers, red and white flowers, Flower Dome Conservatory, Gardens by the Bay nature park, SingaporeFuchsia flower buds opening, pink and purple flower buds, grown outdoors in San Francisco, California

Fuchsia hybrid flowers, purple and white flowers, Flower Dome Conservatory, Gardens by the Bay nature park, SingaporeFuchsia hybrid flowers, pink flowers, Flower Dome Conservatory, Gardens by the Bay nature park, SingaporeFuchsia hybrid flowers, dozens of red and white flowers, Flower Dome Conservatory, Gardens by the Bay nature park, Singapore

Fuchsias are native to mountains from South America into Mexico, with a few varieties from New Zealand and South Pacific islands. They need cool summers, high humidity, and regular waterings, which is why they do well in the San Francisco Bay Area, Pacific Northwest, and other locales with mild temperatures and cooling fog. In warmer climates, give these plants more shade, with little or no full sun. In colder climates, they should be brought indoors over winter, or treated as annuals. They’re fairly easy to start from cuttings, making them ideal for sharing with fellow gardeners.

Fuchsia gall mites can be a big problem, causing deformed and stunted leaves and flowers. These pests are difficult to control, but fortunately some varieties are resistant. I find that it’s easier to grow resistant ones than it is to constantly spray insecticides.

Fuchsia procumbens, fuchsia species flower with blue pollen, creeping fuchsia, climbing fuchsia, trailing fuchsia, New Zealand native species, growing outdoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaFuchsia procumbens, fuchsia species flower with blue pollen, creeping fuchsia, climbing fuchsia, trailing fuchsia, New Zealand native species, growing outdoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaPossibly Fuchsia paniculata, Tree Fuchsia, fuchsia species flowers, growing outdoors in Pacifica, California

Beyond the colorful hybrids grown by most gardeners, there are some fascinating species. The first two photos in the row above show Fuchsia procubens, a marvelous New Zealand native that I’ve kept for many years. Its petite blossoms are bright green, yellow, and red, capped off with blue pollen. The final photo shows another remarkable variety, Fuchsia paniculata, also known as the Fuchsia Tree. When we lived in San Francisco, our garden had a vigorous Fuchsia Tree which was two stories tall. Its clusters of small flowers were much beloved by butterflies, birds, and bees. Both of these species are resistant to mites.

Orchid Species New to Science

Posted September 13th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: In the News

Orchids are one of the largest plant families in existence, and that family is still growing. There’s always a steady stream of orchids which are new to science. Recent discoveries include a Vanilla species from Vietnam, a Palmorchis from the Amazon, and a bright orange Dendrochilum from the Philippines. There’s also a fascinating little Corybas, or Helmut Orchid, with bright pink stripes on its leaves.

Most scientists are clearer nowadays about saying that these species are “new to science,” not “new discoveries.” This is, of course, because many of these plants have long been known to indigenous peoples. Indeed, botanical papers describing new finds often talk about traditional uses of those plants by native peoples, for food, medicine, or cultural purposes. That’s proof that many “undiscovered” species were well known by locals long before they were found by botanists. Catch up on more orchids new to science at Novataxa.com.

Enduring Beauty – Orchid Portraits of the RHS

Posted September 7th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Books, In the News, Misc

For over 120 years, the UK’s Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has employed an official artist to render portraits of award-winning orchids. This stunning art is not only beautiful, but also precise in its botanical elements, making it better than photographs for discerning floral details. Since 1897, there have been nine official artists who have painted over 7,000 plants. The first was Nellie Roberts, whose superb watercolors left a high standard for those who followed her. The current artist, Deborah Lambkin, began the job in 2005. She creates art that captures the flowers’ award-winning qualities in perfect detail. Paintings show the exact size of the original blooms. Lambkin says “My aim is to achieve the highest level of scientific accuracy and the closest colour match possible.” To enjoy your own collection of these botanical masterpieces, check out The Orchid: From the Archives of the Royal Horticultural Society.

It’s Been Six Months Since My Last Orchid Events Post

Posted September 1st, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Misc, Photos

Rossioglossum Rawdon Jester 'Great Bee', orchid hybrid flower, large flower, yellow white and brown flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2020, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaBulbophyllum lobbii type Phillipines, orchid species flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2020, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaPhragmipedium Peruflora's Spirit, Lady Slipper orchid flower, Phrag hybrid, Pacific Orchid Expo 2020, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Six months ago, I did a regular post about March’s upcoming orchid events. It included a note about a few cancellations because of COVID19. I certainly had no idea how much the world would change since then. By April, almost everything was cancelled, and it would have been irresponsible for me to publicize any remaining shows that could become contagion hotspots. For the first time in many years, I didn’t do a monthly events post. I haven’t done one since. I’m looking forward to the day when shows, auctions, seminars, and conferences can resume in person. In the meantime, enjoy these photos from the last show I attended, Pacific Orchid Expo 2020, back in February.

Epidendrum orchid hybrid flowers, bright pink flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2020, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaCymbidium Virginia Reyes Carreon 'Woodside', orchid hybrid flowers and leaves, green flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2020, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaOrchid display, Pacific Orchid Expo 2020, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Of course, there are far greater tragedies than orchid shows being cancelled. Fortunately, Dave and I are doing fine. We live in a great town near San Francisco. Most people here are taking the virus seriously. Almost everybody wears masks and respects distancing. So far, the Bay Area has avoided the worst of the pandemic as a result. But with a monstrously incompetent, corrupt, and immoral president in charge, this country has no chance of getting this virus under control. For now, it’s all about virtual events. Many orchid societies, like the San Francisco Orchid Society, have monthly virtual meetings. The American Orchid Society has a catalog of recorded orchid care webinars, and regularly offers new ones. We are all becoming creative, and figuring out how to hold more gatherings online. Here’s hoping for the day when we can resume enjoying orchids together in person.

Masdevallia ignea 'Red Velvet' AM/AOS, orchid species flowers, pleurothallid, Pacific Orchid Expo 2020, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaOrchid display, Pacific Orchid Expo 2020, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaCattleya jongheana x praetans, orchid hybrid flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2020, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

New Guinea’s Plants Are ‘Majestic, Stunning, Intriguing and Bizarre’

Posted August 26th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

As the world’s largest tropical island, New Guinea has over 13,000 plant species, more than even Madagascar or Borneo. With varied habitats, like coastal jungles, tropical rainforests, high cloud forests, and alpine grasslands, there’s incredible biodiversity. Two-thirds of the island’s species are found nowhere else. Using their botanical riches, ancient New Guineans domesticated two of the world’s most valuable crops, bananas and sugarcane.

As for orchids, New Guinea is home to over 2400 native varieties. The article includes great pictures of two weird Bulbophyllums: the only known night-blooming orchid, Bulb. nocturnum, and Bulb. tarantula, with spidery flowers.

The native peoples of New Guinea have done well as stewards of the land, but the modern world is encroaching. Sadly, their incredible heritage is threatened by deforestation, roads which fragment forests, and climate change. Scientists are working to safeguard the island’s wildlife, but also need more funding. They have taken this primary step of creating a conservation checklist. Indonesia, which controls the western half of the island, has pledged to protect 70% of remaining forests. If scientists, governments, and local peoples work together, they can save this marvelous place. Read more about New Guinea’s natural wonders at Mongabay.

The Yolk-Yellow Orchid, Prosthechea vitellina

Posted August 21st, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, Growing, Photos

Prosthechea vitellina, AKA Encyclia vitellina, orchid species flowers, bright orange and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaProsthechea vitellina, AKA Encyclia vitellina, orchid species flowers, bright orange and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaProsthechea vitellina, AKA Encyclia vitellina, orchid species flower, bright orange and yellow flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Prosthechea vitellina, AKA Encyclia vitellina, orchid species flowers, bright orange and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaProsthechea vitellina, AKA Encyclia vitellina, orchid species flowers, bright orange and yellow flowers, close up of yellow flower lips, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaProsthechea vitellina, AKA Encyclia vitellina, orchid species flowers and buds, bright orange and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

I’m glad I splurged on this Prosthechea vitellina at the Pacific Orchid Expo in February. It was on my shopping list as a cool grower that I figured would do well here on the Northern California coast. Happily, it’s proven to be a great addition to our garden, and has settled into its new home nicely. It’s now been in bloom for over a month, and new orange and yellow flowers continue to open.

Prosthechea vitellina, AKA Encyclia vitellina, orchid species flower and buds, bright orange and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaProsthechea vitellina, AKA Encyclia vitellina, orchid species flowers and buds, bright orange and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaProsthechea vitellina, AKA Encyclia vitellina, orchid species flowers and buds, bright orange and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Prosthechea vitellina, AKA Encyclia vitellina, orchid species flowers on mounted plant, bright orange and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaProsthechea vitellina, AKA Encyclia vitellina, orchid species flower and buds, bright orange and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaProsthechea vitellina, AKA Encyclia vitellina, orchid species flowers and buds, bright orange and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Prosthechea vitellina, formerly known as Encyclia vitellina, is native to mountain forests of Mexico and Central America. It lives as high as 8530 feet (2600 m,) where it enjoys cool temps and bright light. With regular water, high humidity, and good air movement, this species can thrive. I’ve heard that it doesn’t live for long if it’s kept too warm.

This gorgeous orchid varies from light orange to scarlet. Mine has a brilliant combination of bright orange and yellow. The species name vitellina means “egg yolk yellow” in Latin, describing the sunny flower lip. In Mexico, its common name is Manuelitos. No matter what it’s called, I’m enchanted by it in our garden.

Fallen Flowers: Restoring Wild Orchids in India’s Western Ghats

Posted August 14th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

Orchid conservation takes many forms. In the Western Ghats, tropical mountain forests hold almost a third of India’s flora and fauna species. That includes hundreds of native orchid varieties, like Dendrobiums, Bulbophyllums, Habenarias, and Aerides. As deforestation threatens these species, Indian conservationists have enlisted local students to rescue orchids. Within the region’s tea, coffee, and cardamom estates, they find orchids which have fallen out of trees due to winds or heavy rainstorms. They pick up the orchids, identify them, replant them on trees, and have a 90% success rate after 16 months. In the process, the students not only save plants, but also learn about the biodiversity living around them. Education has led the local community to become conservation champions.

Why Do Orchid Names Change?

Posted August 7th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Orchid Names, Photos

Maybe you have a grasp on the complex world of orchid names, from reading nametags to understanding awards, plus all that Latin. Well, if you think you’re done, I’m sorry. You still have to deal with orchid name changes. Why do names change? Sorting out family ties between 30,000 orchid species is no easy task, and new discoveries constantly affect our interpretations. The onset of DNA analysis in the last few decades has revealed new relationships, and disproved others. It can be annoying, but it’s the inevitable result of continuing scientific research. Name changes are part of our growing understanding of orchids.

Vanda falcata, AKA Neofinetia falcata, Samurai Orchid, Furan, Fukiran, Japanese orchid species flowers and plant, white flowers, variegated leaves, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, CaliforniaDracula gorgona 'Stony Point', orchid species flower, pleurothallid, Oakland Orchid Show 2010, Oakland, CaliforniaRhyncholaeliocattleya Wendy Tanaka, AKA Brassolaeliocattleya Wendy Tanaka, Cattleya orchid hybrid flower, white and yellow flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, California

Here are three examples of name changes:

Shown in the first photo above, Japan’s beloved Samurai Orchid, Neofinetia falcata, has been renamed Vanda falcata. It’s long been known that Neofinetias and Vandas are closely related, because they can hybridize with each other. However, as scientists investigated further, they discovered that Neofinetias are, in fact, Vandas. Since it takes years, or even decades, for these updates to become widely known, it’s no surprise that many orchid lovers still say Neofinetia.

Draculas used to be called Masdevallias, until botanists realized that they were distinct enough to merit their own genus. Draculas were separated from Masdevallias in 1978. If you look at an old orchid book, you may find Dracula gorgona, in the second photo above, labelled as Masdevallia gorgona. An old orchid name is called a synonym of its new name.

The big, beautiful Cattleya in the third photo is a complex hybrid. One of its parent species was renamed from Brassavola digbyana to Rhyncholaelia digbyana. That affects its hybrid name. It went from being a BLC (Brassolaeliocattleya) to an RLC (Rhyncholaeliocattleya.) The “Brasso-” beginning of that long word became “Rhyncho-“. Since that same species is in the parentage of many Cattleya hybrids, this one renaming created a cascade, altering thousands of names.

Is your head spinning from this yet? Name changes are such a big, messy topic that there’s plenty more to discuss. Go back to enjoying your flowers, and check for additional info in a future post.

An ‘Orchid Thief’ Sequel in Coral Gables

Posted August 3rd, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: In the News, Misc

Chalk this one up to the fact that some orchid lovers behave poorly. The Miami Herald reports on orchid thefts in Coral Gables. Somebody stole $4,000 worth of orchids that residents had attached to trees. Several years ago, a few people started planting Moth Orchids and Dendrobiums to beautify their neighborhood. They were stolen in early June, so locals invested thousands of dollars to replace them. This time, they hung them higher in the trees to discourage theft. The culprit returned and stole them again, anyway. Fortunately, the crook was arrested after being caught on surveillance video. It doesn’t involve the high drama and endangered species of the bestselling book The Orchid Thief, or subsequent movie Adaptation, but it’s another reminder that not all orchid lovers are well behaved.