Donkey Orchids And Their Tricks

Posted January 16th, 2022 by Marc Cohen
Categories: In the News, Orchids in the Wild, Videos

In Perth, Australia, biologist Daniela Scaccabarozzi, PhD, uncovers the complicated lives of Donkey Orchids. Named for their petals which stick up like donkey ears, Donkey Orchids such as Diuris magnifica and Diuris brumalis don’t offer nectar. However, they resemble nearby flowers which do. This food mimicry tricks bees into visiting. Failing to find nectar, the bees involuntarily help with pollination. Check out the videos below for more.

Indoor Orchids Chase Away Winter Blues

Posted January 8th, 2022 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Fragrant Orchids, Photos

Laeliocattleya Nice Holiday 'Suntopia' HCC/AOS, Cattleya orchid hybrid flowers, purple and white flowers with fringed lips, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaeliocattleya Nice Holiday 'Suntopia' HCC/AOS, Cattleya orchid hybrid flower, fragrant orchid, purple and white flower with fringed lip, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaeliocattleya Nice Holiday 'Suntopia' HCC/AOS, Cattleya orchid hybrid flowers, fragrant orchid, purple and white flowers with fringed lips, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

Orchids can help take the chill out of a gray winter, cold rains, and short days. Fortunately, I have a lot blooming indoors right now. First, there’s a fragrant Cattleya hybrid in the row of photos above. It’s been reliable for years, pumping out white blossoms with rich purple coloring. The ruffled petals and lips remind me of an elegant garment. The flowers’ spicy perfume is a rich treat.

(Vanda Prayad Muang Ratch x Ascocenda Lena Kamolphan) x Vanda Srakaew, Vanda orchid hybrid flowers, large purple flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, California(Vanda Prayad Muang Ratch x Ascocenda Lena Kamolphan) x Vanda Srakaew, Vanda orchid hybrid flowers, large purple flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, California(Vanda Prayad Muang Ratch x Ascocenda Lena Kamolphan) x Vanda Srakaew, Vanda orchid hybrid flowers, large purple flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

The second row of photos shows my Vanda hybrid. With big flowers and big color, it’s a wall of brilliant purple. So far, the blooms have lasted over six weeks. The plant is obviously happy living in its glass vase home.

Vanda falcata 'Higashidemiyako', AKA Neofinetia falcata 'Higashidemiyako', Samurai Orchid, orchid species flowers, Furan, Fukiran, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, white flowers with long nectar spurs, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaVanda falcata 'Higashidemiyako', AKA Neofinetia falcata 'Higashidemiyako', Samurai Orchid, orchid species flowers, Furan, Fukiran, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, white flowers with long nectar spurs, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaVanda falcata 'Higashidemiyako', AKA Neofinetia falcata 'Higashidemiyako', Samurai Orchid, orchid species flower, Furan, Fukiran, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, close-up of white flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

Samurai Orchids usually bloom over summer, but mine has a flower spike much later than usual this year. It’s shown in the third row. The crystal white flowers look like shooting stars, and emit a delicious scent after dark.

Paphiopedilum hybrid orchid flower, Paph, Lady Slipper, green white purple and maroon flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaPaphiopedilum hybrid orchid flower, Paph, Lady Slipper, green white purple and maroon flower, close-up of flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaMaxillaria tenuifolia, orchid species flower, Coconut Orchid, fragrant orchid, red and white flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

The last row of photos includes two shots of a great Lady Slipper hybrid, and a picture of an early bloom on my Coconut Orchid. Its sweet coconut scent is a promise of more to come. By spring, this plant will be overflowing with dozens of fragrant red flowers. All these orchids inspire warm thoughts over winter.

January Orchid Events

Posted January 1st, 2022 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Events

Happy 2022! The new year begins with many cancellations because of the latest COVID19 surge. Please check before attending to make sure that shows and auctions are still happening. I wouldn’t go anywhere without basic health precautions, and I only publicize in-person events here if masks are required.

January 8
Orchid Society of Great Britain Auction, Cole Court, 150 London Rd., Twickenham, UK
January 22
Gold Coast Cymbidium Society Orchid Auction, San Mateo Garden Center, 605 Parkside Way, San Mateo, California
January 22
National Capital Orchid Society’s Virtual Paph Forum, online; three expert Paphiopedilum speakers; $25 or $27 USD registration
January 27
Virtual Tour of the Smithsonian Gardens’ Orchid Collection, free webinar with speaker Justin Kondrat, Lead Horticulturist
January 29 – 30
Orchid Society of Minnesota Winter Carnival Show, Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, 1225 Estabrook Dr., St. Paul, Minnesota
January 29 – 30
Grand Valley Orchid Society Show, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, 1000 East Beltline NE, Grand Rapids, Michigan
January 29
American Orchid Society Virtual Speakers Day, online; four expert speakers on Vanda and Angraecum alliances; $30 USD registration

Andy’s Orchids’ Videos

Posted December 27th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, Videos

Many orchid species lovers, including myself, are already familiar with Andy’s Orchids. Andy has been a regular sight for years at shows around the country, and a good number of my own plants were purchased from him. His jungle-like Southern California greenhouses are home to the largest and most diverse orchid species collection in the world. Andy works to save endangered varieties, and donates a portion of every sale to the Orchid Conservation Alliance. Take advantage of the videos below to tour his unparalleled collection. Each video is like a warm and colorful tropical vacation.

The Orchid Ark

Virtual tour with Andy of Andy’s Orchids

Andy’s Orchids New Greenhouse

December’s Solstice

Posted December 21st, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Photos

Trichoglottis philippinensis, orchid species flower, Philippine native orchid, dark purple hot pink yellow and white flower, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaHolcoglossum wangii, orchid species flower, China and Vietnam native orchid, white yellow and purple flower, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaPhragmipedium Hanne Popow, Lady Slipper, Phrag, orchid hybrid flower, pink white and yellow flower, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

The winter solstice is a glass-half-full or half-empty issue. It’s easy to lament the shortest day with the least light, but also easy to celebrate the increased light after today.

Renanthera orchid flowers, bright red and yellow flowers, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaDendrobium kingianum 'Beni Otome', orchid species flowers and buds, purple and white flowers, variegated leaves, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaMasdevallia orchid flower, purple and yellow flower, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Sobralia macrantha, orchid species flower, large purple flower, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaMasdevallia orchid flower, possibly Masdevallia princeps, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaPhalaenopsis orchid flowers, Moth Orchid, Phal, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

With the assistance of a few extraordinary orchids, I’m voting for the optimistic, glass-half-full version of things. These brilliant blooms from an old orchid show help to illuminate and commemorate today’s solstice. They are each marvels of nature, just like the cycles of the seasons themselves. Happy holidays. May the new year bring brighter times.

Bulbophyllum rothschildianum 'Red Chimney' FCC/AOS, AKA Cirrhopetalum, orchid species flowers, Daisy Orchid, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaOncidium Moon Shadow 'Tiger Tail', orchid hybrid flowers, yellow white and brown flowers, Dancing Lady Orchid, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaDendrobium cuthbertsonii, orchid plant, orchid flowers and leaves, pink and orange flowers, miniature orchid, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Paphiopedilum flower, Lady Slipper orchid, Paph, side view of flower, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaVanda coerulescens, orchid species flowers, bluish-purple and white flowers, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaEpicattleya Fascination, orchid hybrid flower, Orchids in the Park 2013, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Give to Orchids for the Holidays

Posted December 16th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation

Give orchids for the holidays, and also give to orchids to save them. Please join or donate to the essential conservation groups listed below, because orchids need our help. Worsening climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, over-collection of wild plants, and disappearing pollinators are all major threats. These organizations are trying to save orchids and all sorts of other flora and fauna from extinction. Donations to non-profits are tax deductible as allowed by law. Many more worthy groups circle the globe — check with local conservation organizations and orchid societies to find out how you can be part of the solution.

Coast Redwoods Tower Over the Forest

Posted December 9th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Books, Conservation, General Gardening, Photos

Sequoia sempervirens, Coast Redwood, looking up straight tree trunk from below, Sam McDonald Park, San Mateo County, Loma Mar, CaliforniaSequoia sempervirens, Coast Redwoods, looking up straight tree trunks from below, Sam McDonald Park, San Mateo County, Loma Mar, CaliforniaSequoia sempervirens, Coast Redwoods, man looking up and taking photos of trees, Sam McDonald Park, San Mateo County, Loma Mar, California

I doubt that any photo of ancient Coast Redwoods can convey how massive these giants are. When standing before them in person, it’s impossible to comprehend their height. Looking up their straight trunks, and then looking up some more, you finally see the tree canopy against the sky. It’s hard to avoid straining your neck. Coast Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world, towering over 380 feet (116 m.) Even with my handsome husband, who’s almost 6 feet (1.8 m) tall, in a couple of these photos to provide a sense of scale, our pictures can’t do these trees justice.

Sequoia sempervirens, Coast Redwoods, looking up straight tree trunks from below, tree canopy with blue sky and white clouds, Sam McDonald Park, San Mateo County, Loma Mar, CaliforniaSequoia sempervirens, Coast Redwoods, forest path, ferns, Sam McDonald Park, San Mateo County, Loma Mar, CaliforniaSequoia sempervirens, Coast Redwoods, looking up straight tree trunk from below, deep grooved bark, Sam McDonald Park, San Mateo County, Loma Mar, California

Coast Redwoods, or Sequoia sempervirens, are native to a narrow band running from the central California coast into southwestern Oregon. They can live over 2000 years, but sadly, there are very few old-growth redwoods left. Only 5% of ancient trees remain. Most are secondary growth trees less than 150 years old, beginning their young lives after heavy logging began. Since young Coast Redwoods grow quickly, they can become tall and impressive after a few decades, but they will take many more centuries to achieve the great heights and wide trunks of older trees. They’re related to California’s Giant Sequoias and China’s Dawn Redwoods, but those are different species.

These photos came from our recent hike through Sam McDonald Park in Loma Mar, California, where there are still a few massive trees over 1000 years old. Happily, this park was spared by recent wildfires, which unfortunately damaged nearby old-growth forests in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Sequoia sempervirens, Coast Redwood, man standing inside hollowed out tree trunk stump, Sam McDonald Park, San Mateo County, Loma Mar, CaliforniaBlue and black feather on forest floor among dried Coast Redwood needles and lichens, dried leaves, Sequoia sempervirens, Steller's Jay feather, Sam McDonald Park, San Mateo County, Loma Mar, CaliforniaSequoia sempervirens, Coast Redwoods, tall straight tree trunks, Sam McDonald Park, San Mateo County, Loma Mar, California

Coast Redwood forests are havens for wildlife, from mountain lions and coyotes, to black-tailed deer, Steller’s jays, rough-skinned newts, banana slugs, and endangered marbled murrelets. While the Redwood trees tower over all, there are also Tan Oaks, Douglas Firs, and Big Leaf Maples reaching for the sky. We didn’t spot any native orchids in the park, but along the trails we did find a lot of invasive Broad-Leaved Helleborines, full of seedpods. Check out this list of flower species that grow among Coast Redwoods, including several orchids.

Deer in Sam McDonald Park, tree branches, ferns, tree trunks, forest, San Mateo County, Loma Mar, CaliforniaSequoia sempervirens, Coast Redwoods, conifers, tall straight tree trunks, Sam McDonald Park, San Mateo County, Loma Mar, CaliforniaSequoia sempervirens, Coast Redwoods, conifer, very large fallen tree trunk, tree fallen across gulley and small wooden fence, smashed wood, splintered wood, red wood, Sam McDonald Park, San Mateo County, Loma Mar, California

To further demonstrate how massive these behemoths are, the final picture in this post shows a very old tree which had crashed to ground and splintered. That probably happened sometime in the last year, since the wood seemed fresh, without any ferns, mushrooms, or lichens growing on it. The “stick” pointing up from the image’s center towards the upper right was about two stories tall. It all must have shaken the earth when it fell.

Coast Redwoods are now grown around the world in parks, large gardens, and private homes. Around the Bay Area, I sometimes see them planted much too close to buildings, where they will eventually cause problems when they become too big. Fortunately, tree lovers can also grow them as bonsai, and keep small versions of these forest giants.

Groups like the non-profit Save the Redwoods League are helping to keep these magnificent trees around for future generations. For more info, check out the great books Coast Redwood: A Natural and Cultural History and The Once and Future Forest: California’s Iconic Redwoods.

December Orchid Events

Posted December 1st, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Events

December’s slow schedule includes these orchid events with health precautions, like masks, for everyone’s safety. Changing pandemic conditions may cause last-minute schedule changes, so double-check these shows before attending.

December 4 – 5
Sawgrass Nature Center Orchid & Plant Festival, Sawgrass Nature Center & Wildlife Hospital, 3000 Sportsplex Dr., Coral Springs, Florida
December 4 – 5
Orchidee in Festa, Aurum di Pescara, Largo Gardone Riviera, Pescara, Italy
December 10 – 12
Exposition Internationale d’Orchidées, Centre Des Congrès, 57 Av. Jean Moulin, Jonzac, France
December 14 – 15
ExpOrquídea, La Rosaleda Ramón Ortíz, Parque del Oeste, C. de la Rosaleda, Madrid, Spain

Wild Orchids Are Being ‘Loved to Death’

Posted November 28th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

The allure of orchids inspires bad behavior from some, and sadly, the problem seems to be growing worse. In Australia, orchid lovers are sharing info online, causing lots of people to search for the flowers in real life. Social media has expanded sharing of location information, which leads to a crush of visitors. Plants are being trampled, and others are being stolen from the wild.

Orchid hunter Mark Wapstra from Tasmania suggests that the best way to collect orchids is with a camera, unless you have a special scientific permit. Be careful where you tread, don’t share locations on social media, and never trespass on private property. As for plant theft, he adds “Most, if not all of them, will not survive. They don’t survive being dug up and put in a pot on your windowsill. You’ll get a day of joy out of it and then hopefully weeks and months of guilt about what you’ve done.”

Learn more about how to enjoy wild orchids responsibly with photography tips.

Darwin’s Orchid Fascination

Posted November 22nd, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Books

The famous scientist Charles Darwin was fascinated with orchids. Three years after releasing his groundbreaking work, On the Origin of Species, his next book was all about orchids. It was published in 1862, back when book titles were much longer, and was called On the Various Contrivances by Which British and Foreign Orchids Are Fertilised by Insects, and On the Good Effects of Intercrossing. Nowadays, its name is usually shortened to Fertilisation of Orchids. It’s full of meticulous botanical drawings and detailed evidence for his theories of evolution. Darwin breaks down how orchids, including native British species he had observed since childhood, convince pollinators to carry their pollen to other flowers. The book includes Darwin’s famous prediction that Madagascar was home to a moth with an extremely long tongue, capable of reaching the bottom of the very long nectar spur of Angraecum sesquipedale. That prediction was proven true decades later when Morgan’s Sphinx Moth was identified. Fertilisation of Orchids has had a tremendous influence on many fields of study, and established Darwin as an expert botanist. For those interested in the history of orchids, and their importance to modern science, Darwin’s master work on orchids is essential.