A Beautiful Laelia Orchid Species

Posted November 29th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, Fragrant Orchids, Photos, Problems

Laelia gouldiana, orchid species flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, orchid species flowers, Mexican native orchid, purple flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, orchid species flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

I love this gorgeous Mexican species, Laelia gouldiana, but our garden pests annoyingly love it, too. The first row of photos above shows happy, uneaten flowers from recent years. In contrast, the three rows of photos below show damaged flowers, the worst from this year, and some milder damage in 2016 and 2018. Whatever chomped through this year’s blooms did so while they were still buds, so they opened looking like Swiss cheese.

Laelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flowers, bug-eaten flowers, Mexican native orchid, purple flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Laelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower bud, bug-eaten flower bud, Mexican native orchid, purple flower bud, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, close up of flower lip, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Generally, my natural pest remedies are remarkably effective at limiting damage. Our garden is a healthy ecosystem full of birds, spiders, raccoons, lizards, and other predators. I use non-toxic chemicals when necessary. However, these flowers seem to get munched more than most. This year, the bugs, or slugs, really did a number on them.

This species is native to the Mexican state of Hidalgo, but sadly is extinct in the wild. Fortunately it survives in cultivation. It’s considered as easy to grow as its close relative Laelia anceps. This cool grower can handle low humidity better than many orchid varieties. Like other members of the Cattleya family, Laelia gouldiana needs to dry out well between waterings, and wants morning sun to grow well. Maybe someday I’ll learn how to keep its blooms intact.

Laelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia gouldiana, damaged orchid species flower, bug-eaten flower, close up of flower lip, Mexican native orchid, purple flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Wild Orchids of Sichuan, China

Posted November 23rd, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Orchids in the Wild, Videos

Want to take a magical orchid vacation without the hassles of travel? Settle in for three video tours from Botany Boy. China’s Sichuan province is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, and its fabled mountains are full of remarkable orchids. These videos include basic info about these spectacular wild beauties, so you’ll know what you’re looking at. The first two videos consist entirely of Lady Slippers. Bon voyage.

A Treasure Trove of Central African Orchids

Posted November 17th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, Misc

There’s a treasure trove of Central African orchids at www.Orchid-Africa.net. This growing database offers a look at some uncommon species, and it features lots of pictures. Central African orchids aren’t as well known as their relatives from Madagascar and South Africa, but they should be. They include captivating members of the Angraecum family, Bulbophyllums, Eulophias, Habenarias, Polystachyas, Vanillas, and much more. The database is being compiled by African and Belgian scientists to assist with conservation projects. They’re also growing thousands of Central African orchids in shadehouses in Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and São Tomé. In addition to the valuable science they’re conducting, they’ve discovered over 40 new species from the area. Check out their related links, too, to explore fascinating African flora.

Bromeliads Make Great Orchid Companion Plants

Posted November 12th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: General Gardening, Photos

Bromeliad plant with green and white variegated leaves and flower spike in center, Pacific Orchid Expo 2015, San Francisco, CaliforniaGuzmania and Vriesea bromeliads, bromeliads in bloom with colorful flowers, glasshouse at University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UKAechmea bromeliad flower spike, large bright blue purple and red flower spike, Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Neoregelia carolinae 'Tricolor', bromeliad species plant with variegated leaves, red white and green leaves with water in center cup of plant, Orchids in the Park 2011, San Francisco, CaliforniaBromeliad flower, Glasshouse, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey, UKGuzmania bromeliad flower, red and yellow flower spike, Vallarta Botanical Gardens, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo Corrientes, Jalisco, Mexico

Bromeliads don’t have the fame and glamour of orchids, but they’re fascinating, beautiful, and easy to grow. Some have otherworldly flower spikes, with remarkable shapes reminiscent of exploding fireworks or fantastic creatures. Others have foliage with spectacular variegation that provides year-round color. Bromeliad flowers are often tiny and fleeting, but their stunningly colorful bracts can be large and durable. Most are denizens of tropical rainforests in Central and South America, living alongside orchids in the wild. Famous bromeliads include pineapples and Spanish Moss.

Bromelia genus bromeliad, red and green leaves with blue bracts around small white flowers, grown outdoors close to the ocean in Pacifica, CaliforniaPuya bromeliad species from Talca, Chile, blue tubular flowers with yellow pollen, grown outdoors at Univ. of California Botanical Garden at BerkeleyNeoregelia bromeliad, small flowers in center cup of leaves, spiny leaves, Shelldance Orchid Gardens, Pacifica, California

Some types called tank bromeliads have rosettes of overlapping leaves which hold water. There are varieties with spines along their leaf edges, and others which are succulent desert plants. Among the most popular bromeliads, Tillandsias are shown in the next three photos below. They’ve become popular houseplants, often simply called “air plants.” As epiphytes, they live up in the trees with orchids. They can be grown in pots or on mounts, or as bare plants living in a bowl or on a table.

Tillandsia bromeliad in bloom, air plant, bromeliad growing on tree trunk, Carlos Thays Botanical Garden, Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, ArgentinaTillandsia bromeliads, Glasshouse, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey, UKTillandsia bromeliad seedlings growing attached to side of wooden bench in a greenhouse, Kawamoto Orchid Nursery, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

Hechtia marnier-lapostollei, bromeliad species with spiny white leaves, grown outdoors at Univ. of California Botanical Garden at BerkeleyCryptanthus bromeliad, reddish-pink variegated leaves, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaBromeliad flower and leaves, Glasshouse, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey, UK

I’ve tried to illustrate the wondrous diversity of the bromeliad family, but there really is so much more. About 3600 bromeliad species range throughout Central America, South America, and the southern USA, with one species native to West Africa. There are also many hybrids. The most commonly sold types need care similar to tropical orchids: mild temps, regular water, bright light, good humidity, and air movement. There are also cool growers, like this Billbergia tank bromeliad which lives outdoors all year in our Northern California garden. Its brilliant flowers stand out, even among the orchids.

Artificial Intelligence Can Help Protect Orchids and Other Species

Posted November 6th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

Scientists have developed a new way to figure out which orchids are at risk of extinction. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species is the most comprehensive catalog of endangered plants and animals in the world. To be assessed, each species needs a thorough scientific study of its conservation status. However, the enormous orchid family contains almost 30,000 species, and only about 1400 have IUCN Red List assessments so far. Scientists have created an automated system using machine learning algorithms, also known as deep learning. They input existing studies, climate info, geography, and other traits to quickly study lots of orchids. So far, they’ve identified over 4300 varieties which are at risk. They’ve also pinpointed regions with lots of endangered species, including Madagascar, East Africa, and Southeast Asia. Their automated approach may be used for other plants and animals too, helping to direct conservation resources where they’re most needed.

November Orchid Events

Posted November 1st, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Events

This month, there are a few virtual orchid events, and two in-person events with clear COVID19 precautions.

November 8
Santa Barbara Orchid Estate Silent Auction, Santa Barbara, California (bid by phone, e-mail, fax, or mail; bidding ends Nov. 8th)
November 12 – 16
Orquídeas de Otoño, Asociación Mexicana de Orquideología, Mexico (online with Facebook Live)
November 13 – 14
Carmel Orchid Society Fall Market, Community Church of the Monterey Peninsula, 4590 Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel, California (outdoor event, masks required)
November 15
Manly Warringah Orchid Society Auction, Cromer Community Centre, 150 Fisher Rd., Cromer, NSW, Australia (see link to register if you plan to attend)
November 18 – 19
CaliOrquídeas, Exposición Virtual Internacional, Asociación Vallecaucana de Orquideología, Colombia

A Very Different Orchid Subspecies

Posted October 27th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, Photos

Arpophyllum giganteum subspecies alpinum, orchid species flowers, miniature orchid, cluster of magenta flowers and buds, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum subspecies alpinum, orchid species flowers, miniature orchid, cluster of magenta flowers and buds, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum subspecies alpinum, orchid species flowers and leaves, miniature orchid, cluster of magenta flowers and buds, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Arpophyllum giganteum subspecies alpinum, orchid species flowers, miniature orchid, cluster of magenta flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum subspecies alpinum, orchid species flowers, miniature orchid, cluster of magenta flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum subspecies alpinum, orchid species flowers, miniature orchid, cluster of magenta flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

These brilliant magenta flowers belong to an unusual orchid subspecies. It’s a little orchid with a big name, Arpophyllum giganteum subspecies alpinum. It bears many similarities to its close relation, Arpophyllum giganteum, whose purple flowers are shown in the final photo below. Both are cool growers. They’ve been reliable bloomers for years, putting up clusters of small, colorful flowers. But the alpinum subspecies is dwarfed by its relative: a single leaf of the main species is larger than the entire subspecies plant. My alpinum plant is about one foot (30 cm) wide by 8 inches (20 cm) tall, with 6 inch (15 cm) leaves. Each leaf of the larger plant can reach 2 feet (61 cm) long or more! My entire plant is about 4 feet (122 cm) wide by 3 feet (91 cm) tall.

Arpophyllum giganteum subspecies alpinum, orchid species flowers, miniature orchid, cluster of magenta flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum subspecies alpinum, orchid species flowers, miniature orchid, cluster of magenta flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum subspecies alpinum, orchid species flowers, miniature orchid, cluster of magenta flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Arpophyllum giganteum subspecies alpinum, orchid species flowers and leaves, miniature orchid with clusters of magenta flowers and buds, plant grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum subspecies alpinum, orchid species flowers and leaves, miniature orchid with clusters of magenta flowers and buds, plant grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaArpophyllum giganteum, orchid species flowers and leaves, large orchid with clusters of purple flowers, long strap-like leaves, plant grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

The two varieties have different color blooms, but their flower shapes and sizes are very close. As its name suggests, the alpinum subspecies comes from high elevations. It can grow above 10,000 feet (3048 m) in the high mountains of Mexico and Central America. Alpine plants stay small in their harsh, windy environments, resulting in compact versions of plants compared to lower elevations. That explains how two very different plants can be the same species.

Orchids for Biden

Posted October 20th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, Misc, Problems

Four years ago, many, including me, predicted that Trump would be a catastrophe for the USA. Certainly, he has been. He has failed to face a worsening pandemic, an economic collapse, and climate change disasters. His blatant corruption, incompetence, nepotism, and immorality are on display every day. His poisonous bigotry will continue to do damage to our country long after he is gone. He’s given a green light to bullies and tyrants alike, and the world is much worse off for his example. If you think he’s done a good job, then you have terrible news sources, and they have deceived you.

Specific to this website, the election matters to orchid lovers because this president has dismantled dozens of environmental protections. His actions will result in many extinctions, likely including orchids. If you’re a nature lover, this alone is a deal-breaker for supporting the incumbent. Joe Biden has an extensive, proven record, as a senator and a vice president, of supporting essential environmental laws.

For another opinion, here’s the admiral who oversaw the bin Laden raid, a lifelong Republican, on why he’s voting for Biden.

I’m afraid that 2020 will be the most dangerous election in this country since 1860 because of right wing extremists, abetted by this president. We may have violence during and after election day as a result. If the president wins reelection, he will continue to damage our democracy, this country, and the rest of the world. Please vote for Joe Biden for president.

Make Your Own Orchids with Orchid-gami

Posted October 14th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, Misc

Orchid-gami lets everyone to create great orchid art. It’s an educational project from the North American Orchid Conservation Center and the United States Botanic Garden. They’re created templates for 3D models of native North American orchids. Download the files for free, then print, cut, fold, and glue. Teachers, parents, and kids will love assembling orchids. In the process, they learn about fascinating native plants and their conservation issues. Put a Ghost Orchid in your window, or a Spotted Lady’s Slipper on your table. There are different difficulty levels indicated in the instructions, so start with easier ones. Many models are available as punch-outs, ready to assemble, so that you don’t need to print them yourself. Happy folding!

Our Early Autumn Garden

Posted October 8th, 2020 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, Mini Orchids, Photos

Epidendrum orchid flowers, possibly Epidendrium x obrienianum, Crucifix Orchid, reed-stem Epidendrum, red and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaEpidendrum orchid flowers, possibly Epidendrium x obrienianum, Crucifix Orchid, reed-stem Epidendrum, red and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaEpidendrum orchid flower and buds, possibly Epidendrium x obrienianum, Crucifix Orchid, reed-stem Epidendrum, red and yellow flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Epidendrum orchid flowers, possibly Epidendrium x obrienianum, Crucifix Orchid, reed-stem Epidendrum, red and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaEpidendrum orchid flowers and buds, possibly Epidendrium x obrienianum, Crucifix Orchid, reed-stem Epidendrum, red and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaEpidendrum orchid flowers, possibly Epidendrium x obrienianum, Crucifix Orchid, reed-stem Epidendrum, red and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

I’ve got garden pictures to share, but mostly this post is a chance to brag about my Epidendrum, which has been in constant bloom for over 17 years. It began flowering in early 2003, and has never stopped. Through heat waves, driving rains, light frosts, strong winds, pounding hailstorms, pest attacks, and smoky conditions, it persists. Each red and yellow blossom lasts a week or more. A constant resupply of buds crowns the flower spikes, which grow taller until they exhaust themselves. Then they’re replaced by new growth and fresh spikes. The plant itself is about 4 feet (1.2 m) tall by 3 feet (0.9 m) wide, and it lives outdoors all year. It’s a keiki factory, and for years, I’ve given babies to friends and neighbors.

Epidendrum orchid flowers with water drops, possibly Epidendrium x obrienianum, Crucifix Orchid, reed-stem Epidendrum, red and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaEpidendrum orchid flowers with water drops, possibly Epidendrium x obrienianum, Crucifix Orchid, reed-stem Epidendrum, red and yellow flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaEschscholzia californica, California poppy, orange flower, grown outdoors in Pacifica, California

Cochlioda vulcanica, orchid species flowers and buds, bright pink flowers, grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaPraying Mantis, possibly Mantis religiosa, tan and brown insect, large insect, in Cymbidium orchid leaves in Pacifica, CaliforniaPraying Mantis, possibly Mantis religiosa, tan and brown insect, large insect, in Cymbidium orchid leaves in Pacifica, California

The other garden pictures begin with a brilliant orange California Poppy. There’s also a bright pink Cochlioda vulcanica. It’s a very reliable miniature cool grower, now known as Oncidium vulcanicum. The last two photos show a praying mantis that’s been happily living in one of my Cymbidiums. No matter its alien appearance, I’m happy to have this predator making its home in our garden. It can help itself to all the pests it wants. Whenever I water, it runs up the leaves like it’s greeting me. Really, it’s just trying to escape the cool shower from the hose.