Bulbophyllums Are Some of the Weirdest Orchids

Posted May 27th, 2019 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Fragrant Orchids, Growing, Photos, Warm Growers, Watering

Bulbophyllum pardalotum, orchid species flower, miniature orchid, orange and red flower, grown indoors in San Francisco, CaliforniaCirrhopetalum rothschildianum 'Red Chimney' FCC/AOS, Bulbophyllum, orchid species flowers, Orchids in the Park 2012, San Francisco, CaliforniaBulbophyllum, orchid species flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2008, San Francisco, California

Bulbophyllums are one of the largest and strangest orchid families in the world. With over 2000 species and a growing number of hybrids, they have ridiculously diverse flower forms. Some of their blooms are large, some are tiny, and some don’t look like flowers at all. They all have fascinating, hinged floral lips which jiggle in a breeze.

Bulbophyllum fascinator var. corazonae, orchid species flower, side view of flower with purple fringe, Orchids in the Park 2013, San Francisco, CaliforniaBulbophyllum grandiflora, orchid species flower, weird flower, Orchid Society of Northwest Pennsylvania Show 2010, Erie, Pennsylvaniapossibly Bulbophyllum echinolabium, orchid species flower, large flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2007, San Francisco, California

Bulbophyllum flowers, orchid flowers, Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaBulbophyllum spiesii, orchid species flowers, weird flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2012, San Francisco, CaliforniaBulbophyllum medusae, orchid species flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2018, San Francisco, California

Different varieties are scentless or have pleasant fragrances, but many have foul scents, reeking of putrid flesh or feces, to attract the flies which pollinate them. A few Bulbophyllums have inspired an infamous claim that they stink like “a thousand dead elephants rotting in the sun.” This malodorous reputation limits their popularity, and it is a good idea to smell one before you buy it to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Bulbophyllum flower, orchid flower, orchid mounted on tree, growing at McBryde Garden, National Tropical Botanical Garden, Koloa, Kauai, HawaiiBulbophyllum falcatum v. falcatum, orchid species flowers, miniature flowers, weird flowers, Orchid Society of Northwest Pennsylvania Show 2010, Erie, PennsylvaniaBulbophyllum annamense 'Crownpoint', orchid species flowers, Montreal Botanical Garden, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Bulbophyllum carunculatum 'Andreas Red', orchid species flower, Orchids in the Park 2014, San Francisco, CaliforniaBulbophyllum makoyanum, orchid species flowers, Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaBulbophyllum lobbii, orchid species flower, RBG Kew, Princess of Wales Conservatory, London, UK

Bulbophyllums circle the globe. Many are native to New Guinea and southern Asia, while others span the tropics into Africa, Latin America, and Pacific islands. Most are warm growers which need bright light, frequent waterings, high humidity, and good air movement. Their spreading growth habits make them tough to confine to pots, but they’re suited to mounts and baskets.

For orchid growers who like the strange and fantastic, Bulbophyllums are some of the most bizarre. No collection of weird orchids would be complete without them.

Battling to Save Orchids in Assam, India

Posted May 23rd, 2019 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

The state of Assam in northeastern India is full of hundreds of orchid species. In fact, Assam’s official flower is the Foxtail Orchid, a Rhynchostylis known in Assamese as kopou phool. Sadly, native orchids have been disappearing, destroyed by deforestation, erosion, overgrazing, and the illegal plant trade. Some native orchid species cannot be found in Assam’s jungles anymore. Fortunately, a few orchid lovers are starting to take action. First, they connected on social media. Recently, they founded the Orchid Society of Assam to promote orchid conservation. By learning more about their native species and how to propagate them, they hope to protect them. In addition, Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park was opened a few years ago. The small park has already become a tourist attraction, and boasts 500 orchid varieties.

How to Identify Native British Orchids

Posted May 18th, 2019 by Marc Cohen
Categories: In the News, Orchids in the Wild, QuickPost

British orchid lovers will enjoy this guide from BBC Wildlife Magazine to help identify native orchids. It shows 10 different species, ranging from Common Spotted Orchids to Lizard Orchids to Bee Orchids. There are details about where each is found, and their key distinguishing features.

Caring for Mother’s Day Orchids

Posted May 12th, 2019 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Growing, Photos, Watering

Phalaenopsis Maki Watanabe 'Carmela', Moth Orchid, hybrid Phalaenopsis flowers, Phal, white flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, San Francisco, CaliforniaPhalaenopsis, Moth Orchid, hybrid Phalaenopsis flower, Phal, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, San Francisco, CaliforniaPhalaenopsis, Moth Orchid, hybrid Phalaenopsis flower, Phal, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, San Francisco, California

Cattleya hybrid orchid, pink and purple flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, San Francisco, CaliforniaCattleya hybrid orchid, red and orange flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, San Francisco, CaliforniaCattleya orchid, pink yellow and white flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, San Francisco, California
If you’ve received an orchid gift for Mother’s Day, basic care info can help you enjoy your plant and keep it happy. Check the tips below these photos for helpful orchid info.

Lady Slipper flower, Paph, Paphiopedilum orchid, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, San Francisco, CaliforniaPaphiopedilum Macabre 'Mother Mary' x Paph venustum 'SVO', Lady Slipper hybrid flower, Paph, Paphiopedilum orchid, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, San Francisco, CaliforniaPaphiopedilum villosum, Lady Slipper species flower, Paph, Paphiopedilum orchid, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, San Francisco, California
Dancing Lady Orchid, Oncidium Gower Ramsey, orchid hybrid flowers, yellow flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, San Francisco, CaliforniaDancing Lady Orchid, Oncidium AKA Baby 'Raspberry Chocolate', orchid hybrid flower, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, San Francisco, CaliforniaDancing Lady Orchid, Oncidium Twinkle Fantasy, orchid hybrid flowers, Pacific Orchid Expo 2019, San Francisco, California
Watering – Orchids need good drainage, so remove wrapping paper or decorative containers before watering. Soak the plant with room-temperature water, and let all excess drain out. Don’t let the flowerpot sit in water for too long, or the roots may rot.

Humidity – Orchids want high humidity. Dry air wilts flowers and attracts pests. To increase humidity, group plants together, or put plants in a humid area, like a bathroom or kitchen. Use a cool mist humidifier, or a spray mister. Place flowerpots in trays of shallow water, keeping the pots raised above the water level on a layer of pebbles or an inverted saucer.

Light – Place orchids in bright light, but keep out of full sun while you’re enjoying the flowers.

What kind is it?Moth Orchids, in the first row of photos above, are the most popular. Cattleyas are in the second row of photos, and are longtime favorites. The third row shows Lady Slippers, and the fourth row shows Dancing Lady Orchids. All are available in different colors, patterns, and sizes, so use pictures as general guidelines, not strict standards. Find more pictures and more tips at AboutOrchids.com.

Why ‘Plant Blindness’ Matters

Posted May 8th, 2019 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, General Gardening, In the News, Problems

“Plant blindness” is a tendency not to notice plants. People are generally much better at noticing animals. With increased urbanization, and more time spent looking at screens, the problem has worsened. Most don’t appreciate how important plants are, and that weakens support for plant conservation. As orchids and other plants face extinction, protecting them is often an afterthought. “Plant conservation matters for environmental health. But it also matters, ultimately, for human health.” Fortunately, there are solutions. “Although our human brains may be wired for plant blindness, we can overcome it with greater awareness,” says botanist Elisabeth Schussler. It’s helpful to interact with plants every day. That includes noticing plants, and also talking about them. It benefits all of us, and the planet, too.

Orchids in Our Spring Garden

Posted May 5th, 2019 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, Growing Orchids in San Francisco, Photos

Red rose flower, growing outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaTidy Tips flower, Layia platyglossa, yellow and white flower, native California species, growing outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaSarcochilus hartmannii, orchid species flowers, large boulder orchid, ravine orchid, Australian native species, growing outdoors in Pacifica, California

After a rainy winter, our spring garden has burst into bloom, with orchids and more. The first two photos are not orchids: a very tough red rose and a brilliant yellow and white Tidy Tips. We didn’t know the rose was in our backyard for a few years, since it was completely encased by a large rosemary bush. One day the rosemary bizarrely produced a big red flower, and I discovered the rose. Considering it receives no summer water at all, it’s one tenacious plant. The delightful Tidy Tips is a native California species, and grows easily from seed here on the Northern California coast.

Laelia anceps 'Helen', orchid species flowers, Mexican native species, growing outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia anceps 'Helen', orchid species flower, close up of flower lip, Mexican native species, growing outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLaelia anceps, orchid species flower, Mexican native species, growing outdoors in Pacifica, California

Many of these orchids may be familiar to regular readers. They’re all growing outdoors, exposed to the elements. I’ve had these plants for years, except for the white and yellow Laelia anceps ‘Helen’ shown in the previous row. I bought that one at an orchid show last year, and it’s proving to be just as hardy as its purple cousin in the third picture in that row.

Dockrillia striolata, AKA Dendrobium striolatum, miniature orchid species flower and leaves, Streaked rock orchid, Australian native species, growing outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaDendrobium x delicatum, orchid hybrid flowers, Australian native orchid, growing outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaMasdevallia coccinea var. xanthina 'M. Wayne Miller' AM/AOS, orchid species flowers, yellow flowers, growing outdoors in Pacifica, California

Sarcochilus, Dendrobiums, Masdevallias, and Cymbidiums have been reliable bloomers in our garden. Our mild coastal climate simulates a mountainous cloud forest environment so well that they thrive here. It ensures that we can enjoy lots of orchids in our spring garden.

Masdevallia coccinea var. xanthina 'M. Wayne Miller' AM/AOS, orchid species flower and buds, yellow flowers, growing outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCymbidium flowers, orchid hybrid flowers, growing outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCymbidium flowers, orchid hybrid flowers, growing outdoors in Pacifica, California

May Orchid Shows

Posted May 1st, 2019 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Botanical Gardens, Events

Many of this month’s shows are well-timed for Mother’s Day gifts and activities. May’s schedule becomes busier in the southern hemisphere, especially South Africa. All of these events are full of incredible flowers.

May 2 – 3
Pine Rivers Orchid Society Show, Aspley Hypermarket, 59 Albany Creek Rd., Aspley, Queensland, Australia
May 2 – 5
Tygerberg Orchid Group Autumn Show, Tyger Valley Centre, Bill Bezuidenhout Ave., Bellville, Cape Town, South Africa
May 2 – 5
Bankstown Orchid Society Autumn Show, Chester Square Shopping Centre, 1 Leicester St., Chester Hill, NSW, Australia
May 3 – 4
Manoa Orchid Society Show, Noelani Elementary School, 2655 Woodlawn Dr., Honolulu, Hawaii
May 3 – 4
Spencer Gulf Orchid Challenge, Senior’s Hall, David St., Port Pirie, South Australia, Australia
May 3 – 4
Maclean District Orchid Society Show, McLean Bowls Club, McLachlan St., Maclean, NSW, Australia
May 3 – 5
Platinum Coast Orchid Society Show, Kiwanis Island Park Gymnasium, 951 Kiwanis Island Park Rd., Merritt Island, Florida
May 3 – 5
Memphis Orchid Society Show & Sale, Memphis Botanic Garden, 750 Cherry Rd., Memphis, Tennessee
May 3 – 5
Zululand Orchid Society Autumn Show, Boardwalk Inkwazi Shopping Centre, Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
May 3 – 5
North Gauteng Orchid Society Autumn Show, Safari Garden Centre, Lynwood Rd., Pretoria, Gauteng Province, South Africa

Read the rest of this post »

The Little Orchid That Could

Posted April 27th, 2019 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Dormancy, Mini Orchids, Photos, Warm Growers

Cynorkis fastigiata, miniature orchid species flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCynorkis fastigiata, miniature orchid species flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCynorkis fastigiata, miniature orchid species flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

This little orchid is certainly not the showiest, or the most colorful, but it’s a survivor. I blogged about this mini Cynorkis a few years ago, when I thought I might have killed it. Actually, it was fine, and grew again without problem. In the years since, whenever I’ve worried that I might have done it in, it’s always come back with fresh leaves and blooms.

Cynorkis fastigiata, miniature orchid species flower, side view of flower showing nectar spur behind flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCynorkis fastigiata, miniature orchid species flowers and buds, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCynorkis fastigiata, miniature orchid species flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

This species seems to go dormant on its own schedule, dropping its old leaves and then growing new ones from tiny tubers. The small flowers open successively, extending the bloom for a couple months. It’s the perfect mini for a warm, shady spot, as long as the space can accommodate the tall flower spikes, which can reach 2 feet (0.6 m) tall or more.

Cynorkis fastigiata, miniature orchid species flower, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCynorkis fastigiata, miniature orchid species flowers, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaCynorkis fastigiata, miniature orchid species flowers and buds, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

Although I’ve gotten used to its seemingly random dormancy schedule, there was another time when I really thought I had killed it. It had a fresh set of leaves, and I must have accidentally overwatered it. The leaves quickly rotted, and I assumed the plant was finally lost. Instead, it started growing again after a few weeks, no worse for wear. This Cynorkis is truly the little orchid that could.

Join the International Orchid Conservation Congress

Posted April 22nd, 2019 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, Events, QuickPost

The 7th International Orchid Conservation Congress is a five day conference starting on May 28th. Scientists and conservationists will meet for this year’s event at Jodrell Laboratory in London’s Kew Gardens. Topics will include the illegal orchid trade, climate change, habitat restoration, propagation science, and much more.

Happy, Healthy Orchid Roots

Posted April 16th, 2019 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Growing, Photos

Orchid roots growing attached to wooden mount, Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaMoth Orchid roots, air roots, Phalaenopsis, Phal, silvery-white root with green growing tipDendrobium orchid roots and leaves, air roots, white roots, Pacific Orchid Expo 2010, San Francisco, California

Healthy roots are essential for healthy orchids. Many people are tempted to cut off their orchid’s roots because they seem unattractive, but that’s bad for the plant. Whether they’re air plants or terrestrials, orchids need happy roots to survive and thrive. Some types have thick roots, while others have thin. All have central, wiry cores, surrounded by outer layers of absorbent cells called velamen.

Moth Orchid roots, air roots, Phalaenopsis, Phal, silvery-white roots with green growing tipsMoth Orchid roots, air roots, Phalaenopsis, Phal, orchid roots attached to tree trunk and damaged orchid leaf, Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Papaikou, Big Island, HawaiiMoth Orchid roots, air roots, Phalaenopsis, Phal, silvery-white roots with green growing tips, Pacific Orchid Expo 2009, San Francisco, California

This outer layer is white or greenish-white, with light green growing tips. Roots may also be brown from growing media or red from sun exposure. Healthy roots are firm, and essential to absorb water and nutrients. Mushy or hollow roots are dead and should be removed, a task which is often done during repotting.

Vanda orchids with flowers leaves and roots in black plastic baskets, Pacific Orchid Expo 2018, San Francisco, CaliforniaEpidendrum orchid roots growing attached to lava rock, white and green roots, Akatsuka Orchids, Town of Volcano, Big Island, HawaiiWhite orchid roots growing attached to wooden basket, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Moth Orchids and Vandas are popular varieties which like to have their roots in the open air. In the wild, they anchor to tree trunks and branches to live as air plants. Others don’t mind growing in small, crowded pots. To grow well, they all need good humidity and breezes to keep the air moving. Some types have chlorophyll in their roots, which photosynthesize along with the leaves. Happy, healthy roots can give an orchid the energy for great blooms.

Cymbidium orchid roots, white roots, terrestrial orchid roots growing in soil, plant grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaClose-up of Cymbidium orchid roots, white roots, terrestrial orchid roots growing in soil, plant grown outdoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaOrchid roots growing attached to wooden mount, air roots, white roots, Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California