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Vol. 7(5), pp. 2-12The McAllen International Orchid Society JournalMay 2006

Orchids In Flower

R J Ferry

Cattleya Brabantiae (C. aclandiae x C. loddigesii, by Veitch, 1863)

Fig. 1. Cattleya Brabantiae (C. aclandiae x C. loddigesii). Photo: DSC_787a, 04 May, 2006.

One of the early orchid hybrids to be registered (Fig. 1), this one has the distinction of being the first orchid hybrid to be given a flower award, the Silver Banksian medal, by the Royal Horticultural Society of England. One species parent commemorates Lady Ackland, an English orchid enthusiast of the early-mid 19th Century, and the pollen parent's name celebrates Mr. Loddiges, an English orchid collector and orchid nurseryman of the same era. Brabantiae was given to honor the Countess of Brabant (Belgium), later, Queen of Belgium.

Registered 143 years ago, C. Brabantiae remains an attractive hybrid. It generally flowers with at least two flowers per inflorescence. The flower's natural spread is 8.6 cm., and flowers are fragrant, attractive, and long-lasting.

Mokara Khaw Phaik Suan x Ascocenda Udomchai

Fig. 2. M246. Mokara Khaw Phaik Suan x Ascocenda Udomchai. Photo: DSC_740 01 May, 2006.

Despite being labeled as a meristem (#246), the Wildcatt database shows no registered name for this cross (Fig. 2). This is a large, attractive plant and its inflorescence threatens to touch the ceiling-braces of Mike Zeplin's #1 greenhouse in Victoria, Texas. One wonders why it hasn't been registered or whether the Wildcatt database has missed recording one somehow.

The plant's butter-yellow flowers are relatively large (natural spread: 9.2 cm.), and long-lasting. The plant's only drawback for the average hobbyist is its size. It's a little over a meter tall, and the inflorescence rises above the plant!

Experience says that no matter how big one builds a greenhouse, it's never quite large enough, but vandaceous plants like this one, as well as many of the dendrobiums, schomburgkias, and myrmecophyllas, make one at least dream of having a large conservatory-type greenhouse!

Oncidium Carnival Costume (Onc. Sarcatum x Tolu. Red Belt, by the Rod McClellan Company, 1978)

Fig. 3. Oncidium Carnival Costume (Onc. Sarcatum x Tolumnia Red Belt) Photo: DSC_743, 01 May, 2006.

Onc. Sarcatum = Onc. sphacelatum x Onc. sarcodes, & Tolumnia Red Belt = Tolu. Golden Glow x Tolu. triquetra) (Fig. 3).

This meristemmed Oncidium-Tolumnia hybrid has been widely marketed in garden shops, and stores (e.g. Home Depot, Lowe's, etc.). It's usually overpriced, but if grown as a sizable clump of plants, it makes an attractive display.

Trichocentrum Lancelot (Trt. Elvena x Trt. lanceanum, by J. Romans (O/U), 1982)

Fig. 4. Trt. Lancelot. Photo: DSC_719, 27 April, 2006.

Photographed in Mike Zeplin's #1 greenhouse in late April, this compact plant had its inflorescences bunched up and partly covered by its leaves (Fig. 4). However, for the grower with scant space, or one who has difficulty managing large heavy pots, the genus Trichocentrum offers several species and hybrids that are small, yet quite attractive. Culture for this group is similar to that for members of the genus Oncidium: intermediate-to-warm growing conditions, lighting generally as one would give a Cattleya, and dry it off by nightfall.

A Mixed Group of Phalaenopsis & Doritis Hybrids

Fig. 5. A mixed group of Phalaenopsis and Doritis hybrids, Photo: DSC_725, 01 May, 2006.

There was no attempt to sort out names in this group (Fig. 5), but the message is clear: one can select from any number of hybrids in the Phalaenopsis-Doritis group and be assured of an abundance of flowers and color at this season! In May, many Cattleyas are not in flower, but Encyclias, Oncidiums, Phals, and Vandas really show off!

Dendrobium Burana Jade (Bangkok Green x Burana Fancy by P. Buranaraktham, 1996)

Fig. 6. D. Burana Jade. Photo: DSC_729, 01 May, 2006.

Phalaenopsis hybrids are not the only orchids to be colorful during May (and most other months!) (Fig. 6). Many of the Dendrobium hybrids can be counted on to be in flower most, if not all of the year! In fact your editor's greenhouse was built four years ago, and a dendrob's pot was hung along the eastern wall. The plant was in flower, and it's never ceased to be in flower ever since!

This hybrid is about a meter tall, and its inflorescence rises about another 45 cm. higher. Although the flowers are not huge, with a little effort they certainly could be used for corsage work. Yes, they'd be fine for cut flower use, but the floral display lasts a lot longer and looks a lot better when simply displayed on the plant itself!

Given the space it needs, this plant's certainly a worthwhile one to culture!

Dendrobium aphyllum (Roxb.) C. E. Fisch

Fig. 7. D. aphyllum inflorescence. Photo DSC_733, 01 May, 2006.

Fig. 8. D. aphyllum plant, Photo: DSC_732a, 01 May, 2006.

This species is known from northeastern India and China, south to Malaya (Fig. 7) (Fig. 8). It grows in tropical valleys at about 300 meters elevation. (Synonyms: D. amoenum; D. pierardii.)

This species grows pendulously, covered with leaves. Then, it loses its leaves and after a "resting" period, covers its naked canes with flowers. The flowers have a natural spread of about 7 cm., are cream-white, and the labellum throat has a velvet-like pubescence.

Chysis bractescens Lindley. 1840

Fig. 9. Chysis bractescens Lindley. Photo: DSC_726 01 May, 2006.

Chysis bractescens (Fig. 9) isn't for the hobbyist with a small-greenhouse, but for one with the space, it's striking when it flowers! It's known from Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize at elevations up to 850 meters. Your editor recalls seeing long fusiform pseudobulbs dangling from a tree near Aquismon, San Luis Potosí, Mexico, in early April. The plant had a cluster of ivory-white flowers beaming out from the pseudobulb bases. The plant figured here flowered in Victoria, Texas in mid-late April, and a flower was still holding on well in the first week of May.

Maxillaria tenuifolia Lindley. 1837

Fig. 10. Maxillaria tenuifolia Lindley. 1837. Photo: DSC_775a, 03 May, 2006.

This species is known from Mexico south to Costa Rica, usually at low elevations, although it's found at elevations as high as 1,500 meters (Fig. 10). This is a rain forest plant, and the trianguliform flowers are borne solitarily, but a well-grown plant may have several flowers blooming at the same time.

This is a wonderful plant for the beginning orchid hobbyist! It's small, easy of culture, colorful, and the flowers (natural spread 3-3.5 cm.) are said, to smell like coconut. Some say their fragrance is like that of strawberries.

This plant has been seen cultured as a potted plant, on a section of bark, on a cork or tree fern mount, or in a lattice-wood basket. It likes moisture, but wants to be well-drained and have plenty of gentle air movement. Also, even when not in flower, it's an attractive foliage plant! Considering its attractiveness and ease of culture, one can only wonder why this species has not become much more popular with orchid hobbyists!

Psychopsis papilio (Lindley, 1825) H. G. Jones. 1975

Originally described by John Lindley as Oncidium papilio, it was removed to the genus Psychopsis by H. G. Jones (1975) in the Journal of the Barbados Museum Historical Society (p. 32). Caution: it's still marketed occasionally under the old name by some vendors, and under both names by less scrupulous ones!

Fig. 11. Psychopsis papilio (Ldl..) Jones. Photo: DSC_7781 04 May, 2006.

This species is a native of low-montaine forests in Trinidad, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. It resembles certain species of South American bitterflies so well that males attempt to mate with it, and in doing so, pollinate it. P. papilio (Fig. 11) puts out a long rachis. This particular plant's flower was held on one about 7.5 decimeters (about 30 inches) long, putting it well above the plant's leaves where it may flutter lightly in a breeze and aid its butterfly mimickry. Another aid to butterfly mimmickry is that flowers bloom successively; not a few at the same time.

Psychopsis papilio is often confused with P. kramerianum which is from Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru, but P. papilio has a bilaterally compressed peduncle lacking swollen nodes (P. kramerianum: peduncle terete), and the wings on the columns of each species are shaped differently.

Myrmecophylla tibicinis (Bateman) Rolfe. 1917. Orch. Review (p. 51)

Fig. 12. Myrmecophylla tibicinis (Bateman) Rolfe. 1917. Photo: DSC_782, 04 May, 2006.

Originally described as Epidendrum tibicinis in 1837 by Bateman, it was transferred to Myrmecophylla (mer-meh-kof-fil-ah, from Greek, myrmekos, ant; and phyllos, a fan of, or a lover of) by Rolfe. It's known from Mexico south to Costa Rica, and it not uncommonly found near water (Fig. 12).

If one has the opportunity to investigate this or any other member of this genus in nature, one very attention-getting feature is that one will encounter an ant colony living within its large hollow pseudobulbs, and any minor disturbance of the plant by the unwary orchid explorer is likely to be met with a swarm of very aggressive ants that both sting and bite at the same time! As these ants (alike with the various "fire ant" species in the southern United States, Mexico, and elsewhere) inject formic acid with both their stinging and biting, it's a great incentive to investigate these species from a distance!

This species might have a good chance to naturalize if grown in a back yard in areas along the Rio Grande River in southern Texas. If so, it will require a sunny location and a sturdy tree to host it. Its pseudobulbs are large (45-60 cm. in length; ca. 2 feet long!), and the inflorescence may be held on a rachis of more than two meters long (well over 6 or 7 feet!). Some years ago, a plant was established in an Arizona Ash tree in the front yard of your editor's former home at 1810 Charles Circle in Ediburg, Texas, and it's continued to survive and occasionally flower ever since. Flowering has been sporadic in that watering of the plant has not been copius, but the plant provides a ready example of survival for well over ten years in the Rio Grande Valley. For members who might care to establish one of these far-from-miniature species in a tree, several seedlings have been deflasked and should be available for potting or tree-mounting in a few months.

The inflorescences figured were held on a plant of monumental proportions grown in Mike Zeplin's Victoria greenhouse. The plant is on a greenhouse bench, and the inflorescence tips nearly touch the fiberglass roof!

Dendrobium lindleyi Steudel. 1840. Nomenclator Botanicus (p. 490)

This species was long marketed as Dendrobium aggregatum, but unfortunately when Roxburgh described it in 1832, that name had already been taken by Kunth for a different South American species. Hence the next available valid name is that noted above. However, it's not uncommon to find plants bearing the D. aggregatum nametag. Nor is it unusual to see this species marketed under either (or both) names. As D. aggregatum, it was sometimes called "Dendrobium aggravation" by orchidists who neglected its watering schedule so that it produced vegetative growths, but never flowered.

Fig. 13. Dendrobium lindleyi Steudel. 1840. Photo: DSC_783, 04 May, 2006.

Dend. Lindleyi (Fig. 13) is native to India (Assam), Burma, eastward to China, and south to Malaya and the Indo-China area. It's a mountain forest plant known from 350 to 1500 meters elevation, and its flowering cycle follows the wet-dry sequence of the climate of those regions. In southern Texas it generally flowers in April-May, but the flowering depends somewhat on when it's dried off after the vegetative growth has been completed and the plant allowed to dry off and initiate its flowering cycle.

Fig. 14. Dendrobium lindleyi Steudel. 1840. Photo: DSC_784 04 May, 2006.

This species may be grown as a small potted or basketed plant or allowed to spread on a bark or cork mount (or in a shallow basket) and grow into a large specimen. However it's grown, it provides a compact raceme of showy butter-yellow flowers that make an attractive pot-plant display. The figure up-left on this page doesn't really do justice to the flowers, so a close-up photo of the same inflorescence (Fig. 14) is offered as well.

Comments : North American Native Orchids in Flower

To this point, we've looked at a few exotic hybrids and species. For the next few pages, a few of the over 230 species of orchids in flower at this season and native to the North American Continent will be reviewed. As we do, keep in mind that not all orchids require one to maintain a greenhouse. Indeed, the basic items needed for these orchids are a few field guides, good hiking boots, and--most of all--the willingness to leave one's easy chair and get out into nature,...and do so where the orchids are to be found, and when they're in flower!

Considering the orchids native to the North American Continent, the general advice is to photograph them and document the date and location, but don't attempt to take them home and grow them in your yard! They make it in nature because of a combination of factors, including the fungi in their substrate, and the nuances of their particular ecosystem (substrate minerals, water, pH, lighting, etc.). As well, many would-be "transplanters" don't realize that orchid roots gather their principal nourishment from their root tips, so they dig up too little of a circle around a plant. The combination of too-little a circle of substrate, too-little knowledge, and too-much eagerness all works together to prevent another wild orchid from surviving and setting seed in it's own ecosystem! Once again, the word is photograph, record, and revisit, but don't take home any captives! Besides, a lot of the fun of seeing the native orchids comes from going on the exploration trip in the first place, and you'll be delighted with the interesting people you meet along the way!

Cypripedium acaule Aiton

Fig. 15. Cypripedium acaule Aiton. Photo: DSC_835a, 13 May, 2006.

If you're a Texan, get in your pickup truck or car and look in the area of the Northwest Territories east to Newfoundland, south to Minnesota, South Carolina and westward to Mississippi, and a few other states. It was relatively plentiful in the mountains north and west of Greenville, South Carolina in May, 2006 (Fig. 15), but don't expect to find it in Texas! It's known as the pink lady's slipper, but some are decidedly red and there's an all-white form.

In it's various localities, it's known by any of several common names: Pink Moccasin Flower, Moccasin Flower, Nerve Root, and Stemless, Common, or Two-leaved Lady's Slipper. It may be encountered in dry woodlands at around 700 meters elevation (well above 2,000 feet), or in bogs, and swamps close to sea level. Its flowering period ranges from April and May in its southern areas to as late as July in its northern regions. In central Wisconsin, look for it in late May through July, and the same time-envelope is recommended if you're hunting for it in Manitoba, Canada.

Fig. 16. Cypripedium acaule Aiton., one with pouch spread open. Photo: DSC_835a, 13 May, 2006. in northern South Carolina.

Unlike its relatives the Paphiopedilums, into which flowers the pollinator enters the pouch via slipping off the flower's disc, the pink lady's slipper's pouch's center portion actually opens to let the insect (usually a bumblebee) inside (Fig. 16). However, once within the pouch, the insect finds it's entered a one-way door and its departure necessitates passing next to a pollen mass placed at either exit. The pollen, deposited on the insect as it exits, is placed on the stigmatic surface (the staminode) of the next flower visited by the insect.

Calopogon tuberosus (Linnaeus) Britton, Sterns, & Poggenberg (common grass pink)

This species is occasionally found in Manitoba, Canada, and is relatively widespread in Wisconsin. Within the southern United States, it's easiest found across the belt from the Carolinas well into Texas somewhere within the time span of March to July; earlier in northern Florida; later in states farther north and west.

Fig. 17. Calopogon tuberosus (grass pink). Photo: DSC_805a, 13 May, 2006.

This one could be almost anywhere from wet meadows to piney woods to open prairies to mountain bogs! In Wisconsin, try searching from late June into early August. Early July would appear to be a likely time to search in Oneida county in the Pelican Lake area. Calopogon plants are commercially available from reputable sources, and if they're not in your immediate northern Wisconsin area, it might be worthwhile to introduce a few to your locality. The ones figured here (Fig. 17) were found on a granite outcropping in the mountains northwest of Greenville, South Carolina in mid-May, 2006. Water seeping over the granite substrate had provided a habitat for Sphagnum, other mosses, and some leaf humus, and both the pink and white forms of this species were flowering.

Fig. 18. C. tuberosus. Photo: DSC_805 (close-up) 13 May, 2006.

Fig. 19. Saracenia jonesii. Photo: DSC_813 (close-up) 13 May, 2006.

Although not fitting--strictly speaking--in an orchid review list, a pitcher plant, Saracenia jonesii, was encountered in the same habitat as Calopogon tuberosus. The grass pinks were growing among grasses (Fig. 18), and the display of the S. jonesii (Fig. 19) stood out gaudily with its own clumps of vegetative growths (pitchers) and their scarlet flowers.

Interestingly, with the water seeping over the granite outcroppings and within the detritus matter that had gathered, both species were actually thriving in a combination of a micro-bog habitat and a semi-lithophytic habitat atop the granite outcroppings. It was a good illustration of orchids and pitcher plants being "where you find them," not merely confined to stereotyped habitats!

Aplectrum hyemale (Mühlenberg ex Willdenow) Nuttall (Putty-root; Adam-and-Eve orchid)

Fig. 20. Aplectrum hyemale. (Putty-root). Photo: DSC_805a, 13 May, 2006.

Fig. 21. Aplectrum hyemale. (close-up of flowers). Photo: DSC_877, 13 May, 2006.

Fig. 22. A. hyemale. (inflorescence). Photo: DSC_878, 13 May, 2006.

The best time of year to look for this species is when it's not in flower! In the fall, when most ground foliage has gone, the single leaf of this species is easiest to spot (Fig. 20). It won't be relatively small, like the leaf of Tipularia discolor (with its purple underside). This leaf will be 3 to 8 cm. wide and 10 to 20 cm. long (1-3+ inches wide and 3 to nearly 8 inches long), and will be held nearly erect. Mark or record the spot, because--also likeTipularia discolor--the leaf of A. hyemale usually withers by its flowering time. In flower, the plants may be as much as 6 decimeters tall (two feet), and the flowers about 2.3 to 2.8 cm. across (about an inch or slightly more). The lip is usually white with a small lobe on either side, and the lip's margin repand.The sepals and petals are usually a greenish-purple tinged with yellow, variously purple, brown, or whitish (Fig. 21) (Fig. 22).

This species is known from Minnesota east to Massachusetts, and Vermont, south to South Carolina, and west to eastern Oklahoma. In Wisconsin, be very surprised if you find it in any of the northern counties, but it's frequent along the shores of Lake Michigan south of the peninsula, and in several southern counties. It's not known from Texas, so this species provides a good excuse to travel to another southern state or even a northern one to see it in the wild! While it's relatively rare in South Carolina, your editor was fortunate enough to be guided to a group of plants by Jim Fowler, author of the book on the orchids of South Carolina.

Why "Adam and Eve," and why the other common name "putty root?" Both names come from the pair of rounded corms (actually underground stems) joined by a slender connection. The "Adam and Eve" implies a couple, and as for the other name, those same corms contain a sticky substance that's been used to mend pottery.

End note

Under the rather vague categories of tropical hybrids, tropical species, and North American temperate species, this issue has reviewed a minute sample of orchids in flower during May, 2006. Admitedly, many have not been included, but it is hoped that this small number will spur interest in each category beyond one's present orchid interests. Many in each category have been noted in previous issues, but not included here due to a lack of time and space.

Your editor is interested in regularly hearing from readers concerning specifics of what is in flower, and when it is so at your particular location. Each of us has life activities that make demands on us "beyond orchids." However, take a few minutes to note such flowering information. It can be useful for future predictions of flowering of various hybrids for special occasion uses, and the planning of trips to see and photograph many of the species when they are in flower, and when we're considering an area from southern Mexico to northern Canada, or somewhere in Africa, trip planning can cover quite an area!

Copyright © 2006 R J Ferry