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Anacheilium cochleatum {Syn. Encyclia}  (Florida south to Columbia)

 An orchid with many names- Anacheilium cochleatum never ceases to get attention. Known as the “Cockleshell” or “Octopus” orchid to some, Its non-resupinate (upside down) flowers have always reminded me of a swarm of flying aliens with beady yellow eyes and a giant elaborate cloak (besides, wouldn’t that technically be a “penta-pus”?)

In Spanish speaking parts of the world it is sometimes referred to as Orquedea negra for its almost black lip which strongly contrasts against the creamy-green tepals of the flowers. As with most orchids with a large range of natural habit, it can be variable in size and color but desrves space in any collection. 

Ansellia africana ‘Shadow Boxer’  (Africa)

Commonly known as the ‘leopard orchid’, Ansellia africana is  a large and variably colored plant from warm coastal regions in Africa. Our ‘Shadowboxer’ clone is very dark compared to the more commonly seen flowers (more typically you see defined “spots” instead of a convergence of spotting which forms a solid color toward the tips of each tepal). There is even a form devoid of spots completely and has a pleasant soft green shade to the flowers. In fact, the only thing that competes with its variability in color would be its variability in medicinal uses by natives communities. Everything from teas to love potions can be made from the pseudo-bulbs, leaves, flowers or even roots. 

Bulb. echinolabium
Bulb. echinolabium

Bulbophyllum echinolabium  (Borneo/Sulawesi)

No matter how you see it Bulb. echinolabium is a show stopper. If the 18” flower or deeply colored and textured lip that sways in the wind as if on a minute hinge doesn’t intrigue you- then its fragrance will definitely leave a lasting impression. From first light until around noon, it smells very strongly of something dead. Not just a bad smell- a something has died smell. Then, after noon the odor disappears. I remember one time insisting that a customer come back the next morning to smell the flower before she purchased the plant. She promptly returned the next day with her heart set on buying it and with one smell changed her mind. It doesn’t help that it blooms in the warmest days of the year. If one flower is open hot-humid Bulbophyllum echinolabium hits you in the face the second you open the door to the greenhouse.

Echinolabium will usually begin to flower in late Spring and bloom throught the Summer. The flowers last about 4-5 days but the spike will continue to bloom for a couple of months and you can get up to 10 flowers before the spike fades. I grow these warm and wet (but well drained) and on the bright side of shady. 

Barkeria whartonianum (Oaxaca, Mexico)

Barkerias are Cattleya relatives found in hot seasonally-dry areas of Central American deciduous forests. Some species grow into a large ball of twisted roots and cane-like growths (i.e. Bark. skinneri) while others are somewhat disciplined and stay on the small side. Whartonianum is one of the latter.

Since they require bright light, seasonal watering and a quick dry down between waterings- success is usually achieved when grown on hard wood and placed in a very bright and well venelated area.

Crytochillum macranthum (Columbia/Peru/Ecuador)

We start Oncidium week with a very unique member of this large group of orchids. Crytochilums mosty occur in high elevation montane cloud  forests where they grow as epiphytes amongst decidous trees. The flower spikes begin developing in the early Fall and can twist and wind their way among  the tree branches where they can reach a length of 12’+.  No matter the position of the spike, once the buds develop they will all turn to the correct position (resupinate- flower opens with the lip in the lower plane of the flower). In cultivation you can use this to your advantage by training the flower spike on stakes in a circular pattern so that once the buds have formed no matter where on the inflorescence they develop they will all look forward.Great care has been given to breeding plants with shorter spikes while maintaining its amazing color and contrast. This plant is an example of that with its 7’ spike. 

Culture can be tricky (but well worth it) since it requires cool to cold conditions and high humidity. I tend to favor under-sized clay pots with sphagnum moss as potting media.

Paphiopedilum liemianum(Sumatra)
We end Slipper week with the beautiful sequential flowering Paphiopedilum liemianum. Found only in northern Sumatra, blooms last about 4 weeks but continue to produce new buds on the same spike for up to one year. It is a very distinct member of the cochlopetulum section of the genus Paphiopedilum with its white “halo” around the bright green dorsal sepal.  High-res

Paphiopedilum liemianum(Sumatra)

We end Slipper week with the beautiful sequential flowering Paphiopedilum liemianum. Found only in northern Sumatra, blooms last about 4 weeks but continue to produce new buds on the same spike for up to one year. It is a very distinct member of the cochlopetulum section of the genus Paphiopedilum with its white “halo” around the bright green dorsal sepal.