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Vol. 10(3), pp. 6-11The McAllen International Orchid Society JournalMarch 2009

Now For Something Different

Dennis E. Read

I started talking to your editor through both of us lurking on the Orchid Digest talk site. Although I had heard of Texas I had never heard of McAllen. Being inquisitive I looked on Google Earth and saw a city laid out in precise right angled streets. Bob then told me where he lived- about 200 miles north in a totally different environment. I live in a totally different situation to you both. I live 6 miles south of Bideford, England and if you look it up on Google you will see there is quite a difference, but, we have a serious connection.

'Way back in 1585 a group of ships, led by Sir Richard Grenville, landed in America. They were from Bideford and settled at Roanoke now in North Carolina. They had founded a settlement 37 years before The Pilgrim Fathers settled in Plymouth but died out in less than 7 years. Later on, in the late 1700's a General Pine-Coffin was fighting the French and later the Colonials and ended up as a governor of a Canadian Province. Grenville or Granville was a knight with William the Conqueror and Coffin was an officer and William gave them huge tracts of Devon.

Fig. 1. The Old Bideford Bridge, Devon, U.K.

So it is true 'We are two countries separated, but with the same language.' Here is the view from my back garden and a view of the Old Bideford Bridge built in the 13th Century (Fig. 1).

As for climate we are also very different. Your winter temperatures are 11° C to 23° C (± 51-74° F.) in winter and 24° C to 36° C (± 76-96° F.) in summer with an annual rainfall of 58 cm (± 23 in). Here my winter temperature is 1° C to 11° C in winter (± 33-51° F.) (many single nights dropping to minus 10° C (14° F) and in summer it is 12° C to 24° C (± 54-76° F.) with rainfall of 110 cm (43 in).

Fig. 2. The Dennis Read back yard showing the orchid houses and countryside.

Our one common factor is growing orchids out of their basic environment. The first orchid I saw that took my attention was Lycaste Wyld Court but the nursery would not sell it. I eventually was sold a plant called L. Wyld Court 'Sanbar Ruby.' It was a poor imitation but I carried on and my main collection is of Lycaste, Ida, Anguloa and various hybrids. Through a friend I started growing Coelogyne and I also ventured into Cattleya but due to fuel costs my warm house is finished and my warm orchids are taking their chance in my intermediate conditions: minimum 12.5° C. (55° F.). As is normal for Orchid Nuts I have other genera Disa, Pleione, Odontoglossum, Oncidium, Phragmipedium, Miltonia, Restrepia, Masdevallia, and others. In the figure above, my orchid houses are in the bottom right (Fig. 2). The larger house is 16 ft x 14 ft and grows intermediate (12.5° C.) and the smaller is 12 ft x 8 ft and is cool (10° C.; 50° F.)

When I give talks about orchids I am often asked what my favourite is. I do not have favourite orchids but I do have some I really look forward to their blossom. Here they are.

Fig. 3. Ida cinnabarina (Lindl. ex J. C. Stevens) A. Ryan & Oakeley, Orchid Digest 67: 17 (2003).

My first is Ida cinnabarina (Fig. 3). I bought this plant about 12 years ago from Dr. Henry Oakeley (of Lycaste fame) when it was known as Lycaste denningiana but it had also been called L. gigantea. It is quite a large plant with leaves 65 cm x 10 cm and pseudobulbs 8 cm high x 4 cm diameter. The flower is approximately 7 cm square but the lip colour is most interesting as it starts cream, but after a couple of days turns to a dark orange. I have seen it growing at ground level in stone scree, rotting wood and moss in Ecuador, but it also grows lithophitically in sun and partial shade. It is also found in Colombia, Peru and Venezuela. My plant is grown under intermediate conditions.

Fig. 4. Ida cobbiana (B. S. Williams) A. Ryan & Oakeley, Orchid Digest 67: 24 (2003).

Fig. 5. Ida cobbiana (B. S. Williams) A. Ryan & Oakeley, Orchid Digest 67: 24 (2003).

Figures 4 (Fig. 4) and 5 (Fig. 5) are of my Ida cobbiana. It was Lycaste cobbiana when I bought it 15 years ago. This is a small plant with leaves 50 cm x 8 cm and bulbs only 12 cm high and 4 cm diameter. The flower is 4 cm wide x 10 cm long on a 16 cm stem. Unfortunately, last year it decided to revert to compost.

Fig. 6. Lycaste guatemalensis Archila, Revista Guatemal., suppl. espec.: 15 (1999).

Fig. 7. Lycaste guatemalensis Archila, Revista Guatemal., suppl. espec.: 15 (1999).

Next shown is Lycaste guatemalensis (Fig. 6) (Fig. 7). This started in my collection about 15 years ago as Lycaste skinneri var. ipala. It changed to Lycaste ipala and changed to its present name 9 years ago. It has also been known as Lycaste virginalis, type ipala in America. As you can see it is an orchid with delicate shadings. Leaves are about 50 cm x 8 cm and the bulb is 10 cm high x 4 cm diameter. The flower is only 8 cm x 7 cm on a 30 cm stem. My plant flowers two ways. It either gives about 10 stems per bulb in August or single flowers each month from August. At this time (January 2009) it is still giving single flowers. As long as you keep it watered in a shade house you should be able to grow it in McAllen. It occurs naturally in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador at various elevations.

Fig. 8. Coelogyne mooreana 'Westinbirt' FCC/RHS.

For many years I grew coelogynes but became disenchanted when names started changing faster than my old brain could remember, but I kept some special plants. The first shown is Coelogyne mooreana 'Westonbirt' FCC/RHS 1908 (Fig. 8). It originates from the same nursery that had Cymbidium fame. I obtained this plant by accident as when I was trying to buy Coelogyne mooreana 'Brockhurst'. At the show the dealer had sold his stock of 'Brockhurst' but another visitor directed me to a stand that was selling divisions from an old collection and I bought my plant not knowing its history. As you can see it gives pearlescent pure white blooms 10 cm diameter and now sits in a 30 cm pot with 8 growths. Each growth gives a spike of 4 to 6 flowers.

Fig. 9. Coelogyne naja.

Next is Coelogyne naja (Fig. 9). This is kept as its leaves are a brown/red colour only 15 cm x 1 cm and the successive flowers are only 3 cm wide. Its root tips are also red, and with its black lip it is an unusual orchid.

Fig. 10. Maxillaria ubatubana Hoehne, Arq. Bot. Estado São Paulo, n.s., f.m., 2: 88 (1947).

Fig. 11. Maxillaria striata Rolfe, Orchid Rev. 1: 266 (1893).

I also look forward to Maxillaria ubatubana and M. striata (Fig. 10) (Fig. 11).

I have had Maxillaria ubatubana for about 10 years but it is not a large plant as its pseudobulbs only last for 3 or 4 years. The flower is not striking. Its maximum width is 7 cm, but the scent is at times overpowering. It occurs naturally in southeastern Brazil in warm and cool areas. Its leaves are about 40 cm x 4cm and the pseudobulb 8 cm tall by 3 cm diameter. It is very similar to M. picta, but is a larger flower and plant.

My original Maxillaria striata succumbed but I saw one growing in Ecuador - a magnificent flower at least 14 cm wide - so I have started again. This is a photo of my new plant's flower but it is only 10 cm wide. M. striata grows in Ecuador and Peru. It has a central leaf 25 cm long x 15 cm wide on a thin 8 cm wide bulb and the flower spike is often higher than the leaves. It grows in the Andes at 500 to 600 ft and grows in intermediate temperatures.

Fig. 12. Restrepia cuprea Luer & R.Escobar, Orquideologia 20: 130 (1996).

Fig. 13. Restrepia sanguinea Rolfe, Bull. Misc. Inform. Kew 1896: 44 (1894).

Now for my little jewels - Restrepias! Restrepia cuprea, as the name implies, is a copper coloured flower (Fig. 12). The flower is 3 cm long and the plant is only 12 cm high. Restrepia sanguinea 'Roja' (Fig. 13) is 2 cm long and again grows to 12 cm high. Both are found in Ecuador and Colombia at high levels in wet Andean forests.

Fig. 14. Rhyncholaelia digbyana (Lindl.) Schltr., Beih. Bot. Centralbl. 36(2): 477 (1918).

I am proud of this orchid shown in Fig. 14 (Fig. 14). It took me 10 years to see this magnificent bloom but after flowering I decided to repot - a big mistake! The outside of the pot was covered in roots so I gently eased them off and repotted in bark. Within a month it was nearly dead. After taking advice I was told it was best grown mounted. I have been nurturing 5 bits for the last two years to see if it can be regenerated. The name of this orchid is Rhyncholaelia digbyana var. fimbripetala.

This is a taste of growing tropical orchids this side of the pond. Luckily all countries use the same names for similar orchids. We may be two countries divided by a common language but at least orchidists understand each other.

Copyright © 2009 Dennis E. Read