Orchid of the Week

April 8th 2024 - Phalaenopsis schilleriana 

This week I will future some of the Phalaenopsis species puting on a great show in our living room orchid cases. 

The first species is Phalaenopsis schilleriana which has exquisite delicate pink flowers and attractive mottled leaves.

Most Phalaenopsis species are found in the region of the Philippines through to Borneo and Phalaenopsis schilleriana is found on Luzon and the surrounding islands. Like most Phalaenopsis species Phalaenopsis schilleriana is restricted to hot evergreen lowland forests where it grows on the bare branches of large trees. 

In cultivation we replicate these conditions by growing our plants indoors where its minimum temperature is 17C (though plants would enjoy it a little warmer than we do). For more info on how we grow plants like this check out our culture page.

 In the wild plants have semi shade from the canopy of the host trees and we have plants on a north facing room with additional light from grow lights.

Flowers are long lasting on thin spikes that tend towards pendulous so this is an ideal plant for a high shelf.

We have two clones of this species, one with deeper pink flowers (see photos) and we have pollinated both so will have seedlings from our lab in a couple of years.




April 4th 2024 - Oncidium alexandrae (Odontoglossum crispum)

Today's orchid is one of the species that got me hooked on orchids as a teenager. Oncidium alexandrae is a famous orchid from Colombia thta took the victorian orchid world by storm after its introduction to Europe in the 1800's. It's beautiful large while and spotted flowers resulted in horrendous over collection in its native forests and its continued conservation faces many challenges - there is a great article on the species by my good friend Phil Seaton here.

I have grown Odontoglossum crispum (as it was known until the 1990s) since the 1970s, and although the species has a reputation for being challenging, find it straight forward as long as it is provided with the cool, damp conditions it experiences in the wild.

The species grows from 2000-3000m in mossy primary forest with temperatures regularly down to 10C with very cool days. We grow our 'crispum' in our cloud forest greenhouse (min 12C with lots of fresh air and heavy watering all year - but especially when plants are in active growth. We find that plants flower best when the summer sun gives a slight pink blush to the leaves and so grow plants half way up the greenhouse in good light but shaded. 


April 2nd 2024 - Coelogyne cristata 'limoniana'

Today we feature our wonderful Coelogyne cristatas, in particular the limoniana forms with light yellow lip blotches. This is a perfect orchid for Easter as we have seen lots on our easter visits to the Himalayas.

We have seen Coelogyne cristata in the wild in Sikkim and Darjeeling, India. It grows on trees and rocks at an altitude of around 2000m above sea level. It always grows with thick moss indicating a love for damp conditions. We keep our plants wet in the summer and damp in the winter. Its altitude gives cool winters with a minimum around 6-10 0C and so we grow the species both in our Himalayan greenhouse (minimum 7C) 


We took the photograph showing it growing in the forest near Tinkitam, Sikkim (below) – on a mossy tree trunk.

To be honest, I am fed up with seeing wrong advice for growers (even in the RHS Garden magazine) that plants need a dry winter rest – this information has been repeated from old books clearly written by people who have not observed plants in habitat. Wild plants do not have shrivelled pseudobulbs at the end of the ‘dry season’ because they only grow in parts of the forest where the dry season is damp, such as this mossy tree in Tinkitam. So don’t let bulbs shrivel in cultivation over the winter. Saying this, the flowers can easily be damaged by water and so we avoid spraying them with the hose and reduce watering when the flowers are out.


The 'limoniana' form has a light yellow lip blotch rather than the usual deep orange but there are actually a wide range of yellows present amongst the wild populations we have observed in Sikkim and in our collection we have a light yellow lip and a very light yellow lip (see photo of them next to each other in our greenhouse). There is also lots of variation in the form of the flowers with some more twisty (crisped) than others - a good excuse for grwoing lots of Coelogyne cristatas. 


March 26th 2024 - Dendrobium striolatum

Today we feature one of our smallest dendrobium species.

Dendrobium striolatum is named for the stripes on its creamy yellow petals and sepals. The species is one of our Austrailian dendrobiums, a group of generally tough and straight forward species evolved for the variable climate found in Austrailian woodland. 

Dendrobium striolatum is reported as growing as a lithophyte on boulders and cliffs from New South Wales to Tasmania and up to 1000m altitude in the Blue Mountains. There are some great photgraphs of it growing in the wild (here) showing the rocky habitat. The photographs show plants growing amongst moss and in semi-shaded spots supporting our observations that despite the terete leaves the species enjoys plenty of moisture when in growth (the summer) and not shrivelling in the winter. We grow  Dendrobium striolatum mounted where its short stems and terete leaves scrable around the cork. We keep it high in our cool greenhouse and like to see a little purpling of the leaves in the summer sun.

As you can see from the photos, this is a small species with relatively large flowers. We hope to get viable seed for our lab from this year's flowers.

March 24th 2024 - Stelis hirtzii

Today we feature one of our favourite Stelis species. 

Stelis hirtzii is a stunning miniature orchid. This pretty little species is native to the cloud forests of Northern Ecuador . The leaves are about 1cm long and so this mature plant could comfortably be covered by one hand. The flowers though are relatively large and very attractive when looked at closely, with an orange brown ground and bright red stripes on the lip and column.


We find that the species does well mounted in a tiny pot or like this plant in a basket. A real bonus is that the species flowers several times throughout the year. 

We grow the species in our Cloud Forest greenhouse (min 12C) where it seems fond of a shady spot and we grow the species wet all year. Friends succeed well with the species in a terrarium.


We have more about twenty Stelis species in our collection and find them reliable, easy to grow and rewarding miniature orchids. This morning I restocked the Isle Of Portland Orchid Orchids Shop and we currently have six Stelis species available. We will have more Stelis hirtzii plants in around a month's time.

March 21st 2024 - Specklinia grobyi (Pleurothallis grobyi)

We are in the midst of updating the names of several of the orchids we have grown for years. We are keen to have reliable names on our plants and use Kew's POWO as our reference.

The very large genus Pleurothallis has seen many attempts at revision in recent years and several of the smaller Pleurothallis species we grow have been hopping around in the new genera of Specklinia,

Acostaea, Areldia, Empusella, Cucumeria, Gerardoa, Pseudoctomeria, Sarcinula, Sylphia, Tribulago and Tridelta. We now have authoritative and convincing research that Acostaea, Areldia, Empusella, Cucumeria, Gerardoa, Pseudoctomeria, Sarcinula, Sylphia, Tribulago and Tridelta should all be included with Specklinia and we are ajusting labels in the greenhouse as a result.

Whatever the genus Specklinia grobyi is a fascinating, widespread and variable species that we have found on expeditions to Guatemala, Belize and Brazil.

We have several clones of this miniature pleurothallis species. Todat’s clone is similar to varieties we have seen in Brazil with 4cm leaves and long spikes of relatively large beak like flowers. The Brazilian plants (with great diversity) in situ are shown in the photographs.

 

All of the plants we found were growing in primary forest in shade with abundant moss growing around them suggesting that plants appreciate being grown wet and shaded in cultivation, and that is what we aim for in  our Cloud Forest Greenhouse.



March 20th 2024 - Stelis omalosanthus

As promised we have our second miniature orchid this week.

Stelis omalosantha is one of our smaller Stelis species and is found in Brazilian cloud forest above 1000m where it grows in shade. We explored this habitat during our school expeditions to Mata Atlantica rainforest and were very taken by the diversity of tiny orchids such as this species. The leaves are 4cm long and the delightful little furry flowers are produced well clear of the leaves.

Stelis is a large genus and we were particularly impressed seeing species in the wild covered in their tiny but beautiful flowers. Stelis omalosanthus has relatively large flowers for the size of the plant and they have tint hairs giving the flowers a furry look.

We grow our Stelis in our Cloud Forest Greenhouse where they are kept shaded and wet all year to replicate their cloud forest home. 

The plant shown here is mounted but plants do just as well in pots and baskets.

I have added an image of the Brazillian cloud forest home that Stelis omalosantha comes from. I took the photo in the dry season but as you can see the forests are shrouded in cloud (it is late afternoon) and the forest will be dripping wet by the morning.


March 18th 2024 - Mediocalcar decoratum

Our greenhouses are full of delightful miniature orchids this morning and so we will feature several of the this week. The first is this remarkable species from Papua New Guinea.

The delicate little flowers of Mediocalcar decoratum are very unlike any other species we grow (apart from the closely related Mediocalcar biflorum) and it is always lovely when the little orange buds burst each spring.

As I have said, the species comes from Papua New Guinea where it grows in shady forest up to 2500m. Mediocalcar decoratum’s small bell shaped flowers in orange and yellow suggest that it is probably pollinated by Sun Birds. Sun Bird’s are Africa and Asia’s version of South America’s Humming Birds and we have seen some lovely species in Rwanda.

Although this is a cool growing Asian species its habitat in the mountains of Papua New Guinea is very similar to the cloud forests of the Americas and so we grow plants in our Cloud Forest Greenhouse alongside masdevallias.

We grow all our plants of Mediocalcar decoratum mounted which suits their habit and plants flourish as long as they are protected from strong sun in the summer which can dry plants too much, and watered well throughout the year. The moss you can see on the cork mount has developed naturally, we never use moss when we mount plants (see here for more detail on mounting orchids)

March 16th 2024 - Cymbidium insigne

Today's orchid is a Asian classic. Cymbidium insigne is the main species behind hybrid cymbidiums grown all over the world.

Cymbidium insigne is a terrestrial species found in the mountains that straddle Northern Thailand, Northern Vietnam and Southern China. It grows in poor soils in the vicinity of Rhododendron species that it mimics. Bees mistake the Cymbidium flowers (which have no reward) for nectar filled Rhododendron flowers allowing the orchid to gain pollination with minimum use of scarce resources. The flowers are long lasting and come in shades of white, pink and cream. (Rhododendron colours)

The flowers of Cymbidium insigne are held on long upright stems to hold them clear of surrounding vegetation and this gives the species an elegance that is lacking in so many of its hybrids.

We grow many of our Cymbidiums including this species really cool in our Himalayan Greenhouse which has a minimum winter temperature of 7C, and vents that open when ever the temperature exceeds 15C. We replicate the monsoon conditions experienced in the natural habitat with heavy watering from April until the end of September and then keep the plants damp at other times. We believe that the most common reasons for people not flowering Cymbidiums are under-watering (especially in the summer months) or excessive damage from red spider mite that can easily occur if plants are kept too hot and dry.


March 8th 2024 - Masdevallia triangularis

March is a really flowery time in the orchid house here on Portland so you will get lots of orchids this week.

Today we have a small growing Masdevallia with big impact.

Masdevallia triangularis is a striking small plant (10cm leaves) with relatively large flowers 14cm from tip to tip) that are kind of triangular. Of course most masdevallias have flowers that are kind of triangular so I am not sure what encouraged English botanist John Lindley to single out this species in 1846!. The flowers have lovely red/orange spots and long, dark red tails.

The species comes from Venuzela, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru and with such a wide distribution it is not surprising that the species is quite variable with colours from yellow through to dark orange.

March 6th 2024 - Cattleya coccinea

This wonderful small growing species with large flowers a classic hummingbird pollinated orchid with its startling scarlet flowers held clear of the 5cm leaves. 

This is one of our top ten orchids and always transports me back to the cloud forests of Brazil where we found Cattleya coccinea growing as an epiphyte in mossy cloud forests in the Organ Mountains at around 1200m altitude. Plants were mostly growing in exposed positions where they receive good light, frequent mists, good air movement and cool temperatures. 

During our visits temperatures were around 12C at night and 22C during the day. It was very noticeable that the forest was dripping every morning from the mists and dew.


New growths have a single leaf that becomes purple in bright sunlight and the flowers are produced from immature growths. The flowers are pollinated by humming birds and are variable in size, shape and colour. Some flowers are rounder, some more angular, and some have considerable yellow on the lip and petals.


This does not seem to be the easiest plant to grow but the challenge is to replicate the plants natural conditions – Cool, wet, bright and windy. It is definitely worth the trouble and the plant flowering today in the greenhouse is growing mounted high in our Cloud Forest Greenhouse but in a spot that is easy to water so that we can soak it most days. Grown well they quickly make lovely specimens.




Feb 29th 2024 - Rhynchostele rossii

Todays wonderful orchid is the diminutive Rhynchostele rossii, a true cool growing orchid from Mexico a Central America.

I grew up with this species as Odontoglossum rossii and was wowed by it as a teenager. by the 1980s it had changed its name to Lemboglossum rossii and it changed again at the end of the 1990s - but whatever the name the species is wonderful.

Each year the plant sends out small growths with leaves about 10cm long that develop 2cm pseudobulbs. In early spring the flowers emerge from the base of the newest bulbs and are enormous compared to the rest of the plant (8cm across) The flowers are very long lasting.

Rhynchostele rossii is only found in high mountain cloud forests between 2000m and 3000m altitude and so comes from a habitat that is always damp and cool - very cool. This makes the species a little challengimng in cultivation and we have found that mounted it tends to dry out too much, in pots it sulks, and baskets are perfect. We water heavily throughout the year but plants have excellent drainage. We find it enjoys good light which makes keeping it cool enough in summer a challenge (keep it wet). The trouble is well worth it as our plant in the photo shows. If anyone wants a closer look we will have the plant with us at the Wessex show on Saturday.



Feb 26th 2024 - Brassia aurantiaca

Today we have another hummingbird pollinated orchid. 

Brassia aurantiaca has dramatic orange flowers that form a tube for the pollinating bird by only opening a little. The result is an orchid that always reminds me of flames and I am surprised that the botanist who named the species wasn't a little more creative with their name; aurantiaca just means 'orange'

The species is native to cool cloud forests of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela and so enjoys growing cool, moist and shady in our Cloud Forest Greenhouse (min 12C) where we water it about every other day. 

Unitil recently the species was called Ada aurantiaca as most Brassia species look different since they attract spider eating wasps as their pollinator not hummingbirds. Molecular analysis has identified the close relationship. 

The flowers are relatively long lasting and always worth a closer look.



Feb 21st 2024 - Oncidium noezlianum

Orchid species have evolved some amazing colours to attract their pollinators and Oncidium noezlianum is one of the most dramatic with the bright scarlet flowers tinged with violet and yellow around the column – attracting hummingbirds.

Oncidium noezlianum was previosly known as Cochlioda noezliana as botanists separated it from other oncidiums because of its different shape and colour but this is simply due to its adaptation for hummingbird pollination (unlike most oncidiums) As well as the bright scarlet colour the flowers have a yellow crest on the lip perfect for guiding the hummingbird's beak, and the petals are swept back to keep them out of the way of the hovering wings.

Oncidium noezlianum is native to the cloud forests of Colombia and has been a major influence on orchid breeding since its discovery. It is the orchid species behind the red in many of the red orchids hybrids sold around the world today in the Oncidineae subtribe.

This species has a reputation as not the easiest to grow, but we find it straight forward if you stick to the cool moist conditions of its cloud forest home (our Cloud Forest Greenhouse) where it is found from 2000-3500m altitude. We find that the species does particularly well in baskets – so damp but very free draining – and baskets also show off the arching flower spikes.


Feb 15th 2024 - Masdevallia pandurilabia

As the early spring sunshine fills the greenhouse our masdevallias are bursting with new leaves and flower spikes. One of our real favourites is this species with long lasting cute little flowers.

Masdevallia pandurilabia gets its name from its lute shaped lip (its actually rather small so a teeny weeny lute). We also love the little red spots and the cute crossed legged look of the sepaline tails on the flowers held on long spikes well clear of the leaves.

Masdevallia pandurilabia is a small growing species native to Peru, where it grows in cloud forest above 2600m altitude loving it cool and moist with good air movement. Some species from similar habitats are a challenge to grow well in a greenhouse, but this species seems to be a vigorous grower and as you can see from the photo on the left produces lovely glossy leaves too. 

We find the species does well for us in baskets and in small pots in our Cloud Forest greenhouse (minimum of 12C)


Feb 12th 2024 - Cymbidium hookerianum

The genus Cymbidium contains some fantastic orchids and Cymbidium hookerianum is one of the most arresting. I think that once you have seen the vision of its light green fowers and delicately spotted lip it is something you will never forget.

We have been lucky enough to see Cymbiodium hookerianum growing wild in the cool wet mountain forests of Sikkim where it is a relatively abundant species from around 1500m to 3000m.

Most of the plants we have seen on live trees have not been flowering plants, whereas plants growing on dead trees flower profusely  and produce masses of large seed pods. This suggests that the species flowers in response to increased nutrient available in dead wood and the extra light once a tree dies and loses its leaves. In fact, it appears that these long lived plants hand around for years on trees waiting for them to die!

As its distribution suggests this is a really cool growing orchid and we have nearly finished our Himalayan greenhouse where we will be able to provide perfect conditions with a minimum of 7C during the winter and lots of fresh air. In summer the main requirement is water, water and more water - but we will remember the extra feed to encourage flowering.

The name honours Joseph Hooker, one of Britains great exploring botanists. If you haven’t read Hooker’s Journals I highly recommend reading them, and then exploring Sikkim for yourself.

Feb 3rd 2024 - Aerangis biloba

Aerangis biloba is one of our warm growing orchids and so lives in our living room in our Ikea orchid cases.


Aerangis biloba is a species from Central and West Africa where it grows in deep shade in woodland up to 700m altitude. The large leaves are a deep green again indicating a plant that enjoys low light levels. The name refers to the unequally bilobed leaves ( a character it actually shares with many Aerangis species).


Most aerangis are compact plants that produce impressive flowers and we would not be without our Aerangis species.

The flowers have relatively short spurs (just 3-4cm) that contain the nectar for pollinating moths and plants are very free flowering. We find that this species is easy to grow from seed and de-flasks well straight onto mounts.



Feb 2nd 2024 - Pleurothallis truncata

Orchids are a wonderful diverse group of plants and this intriguing species exemplifies that diversity.


Pleurothallis truncata is an unusual species producing chains of tiny globular orange flowers that hardly open but give the most wonderful display.

The species is endemic to Ecuador where it grows from 1700m-3000m altutide in cool wet forest - so ideally suited to our Cloud Forest greenhouse (min 12C). We find the species thrives mounted, in pots and in baskets but if allowed to become too dry produced lots of little plants on the leaves (keikis) rather than flowers.

The species has the delightful habit of flowering when really small (under 10cm high) but over time becomes quite large.


One hypothesis for the unusual flowers is that they are hummingbird pollinated - very unusual for a pleurothallis. The close up photo shows the tubular flower structure presented for a visiting hummingbird - presumably one that likes lots of little sips of nectar. Humming bird pollinated orchids are usually red, orange or bright pink.


Jan 30th 2024 - Isabellia pulchella

This rather dull January day is brightened by the delightful little flowers of Isabellia pulchella.

Isabellia pulchella is native to cloud forest in the Mata Atlantica and enjoys growing cool and moist in our Cloud Forest Greenhouse (min 12C) and the roots that dangle in the air appreciate regular spraying.

You could described Isabellia pulchella as a miniature orchid and though it flowers as a tiny plant, it grows into wonderful specimen plant over time as the bulbs little bulbs are produced a few cm apart.

We find that the plant does very well both in a basket of mounted but it can be a challenge in pots as it tends to grow out and root in the pot next door.



Jan 25th 2024 - Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana

We have an interesting collection of Phalaenopsis species and today we are excited to find a flower open on the stunning Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana.

Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana is endemic to the Philippines where it grows in hot wet lowland forest from sea level to 100m altitude. 

We have explored similar habitat in Sarawak where the forest is evergreen, shady, hot and boggy underfoot. Although the forest is wet the trees here do not support moss and so the Phalaenopsis plants growing on bare branches will soon dry out after rain.

To provide conditions similiar to the lowland Philippine forest we grow our plants indoors in our modified Ikea cabinets under grow lights.  We water plants every few days so that plants have plenty of water but are never soggy.

Phalaenoposis lueddemanniana flowers sequentially along horizontal flower spikes and the plant shown will be in flower for the forseable future. We have poillinated the first flower and hope to have seedlings available in a couple of years.


Jan 22nd 2024 - Lepanthopsis astrophora

This species has always been one of our favourite mini miniatures. We have been growing the species now for 30 years and Annie once won an RHS CCC (Certificate of cultural commendation) for a specimen plant)

Lepanthopsis astrophora has leaves less than 1cm long and relatively long spikes of tiny flowers each of which is a perfect purple star (hence the name). The flowers are long lasting and the species is in flower for most of the year although from December to March plants look particularly good with clouds of the tiny purple flowers

The species is native to cloud forests in Venezuela and we find it succeeds mounted in a shady spot and sprayed daily. It is a good idea to keep a magnifying glass handy so that visitors can wonder at the lovely little flowers.

A lovely little plant with a good name.


Jan 19th 2024 - Gomesa fobesii

It may be cold outside but this cheerful orchid makes me think of the warm moist air of the Organ Mountains in Brazil.

This beautiful orchid, previously known as Oncidium forbesii, is a species I have seen growing in Brazil during expeditions to South East Brazil in 2000 and 2006. 

I found it growing at around 1100m on the tops of branches in good light on trackside trees in both primary forests and established secondary forest.

The species flowers on young plants with just one or two flowers and then as plants mature and pseudobulbs get bigger flowers spikes can reach 70cm long with up to thirty flowers.

The plant shown was purchased in flask in 2006 and has flowered reliably every autumn/winter since starting flowering just three years out of flask.

We find that plants do well in baskets and over time they produce a mass of roots as do plants in the wild. We grow the species happily in the roof of our Cloud Forest Glasshouse which is not a surprise as we found it growing in exposed spots close to cloud forest.

The Brazilian Oncidiums such as this species have recently been moved into the genus Gomesa based on DNA analysis which we have followed. We use Plants of the World Online https://powo.science.kew.org/ as a reference for keeping names up to date.


Jan 18th 2024 - Barkeria skinneri

Barkeria skinneri is an absolute picture this January. Its sprays of deep pink flowers are filling the roof of the greenhouse.

Barkeria skinneri is native to Mexico where it grows in open deciduous oak forrest. Each year long can like stems grow and produce spikes covered in glorious pink flowers.

We find that we have to grow barkerias mounted as roots quickly rot when we pot them. The abundant roots seem to thrive when out in fresh air where they dry quickly after watering. We spray plants heavily during the summer when in active growth but reduce watering in the winter when the plants become semi-deciduous.


The species is reportedly found from altitudes of 900m to 1900m which indicates a tolerance of a wide range of temperatures and althopugh it would probably appreciate a higher winter minimum that the 12C we provide in our cloud forest glasshouse it flourishes grown really high where it experiences a dryer, brighter and warmer conditions than our cooler growing species below.  We find that the key to growing a mixed orchid collection is to make the most of environmental niches within you growing space just as plants find environmental niches in their native habitats.

Jan 9th 2024 - Pleurothallis galeata

We consider Pleurothallis galeata to be one of the easiest orchids we grow. It is tolerant of both high and low temperatures, propagates easily and from kikis and flowers its socks off with long spikes of delicate flowers that last several weeks.

Plants for medium sized clumps like the one photographed this morning  with plants about 25cm tall with a tough single leaf on a stiff stem. The flower spikes come from the base of every leaf, old and new, and with us plants flower in the winter and again in the summer.

Some leaves produce more than one spike and plants flower well from young divisions

Pleurothallis galeata is found over a vast range from Venezuela in the north to Peru in the south and grows in cloud forests from 1500 to 3400m. This range may explain the unfussy nature of the species. We grow plants successfully in pots, mounted and in baskets. We find it enjoys lots of water and copes happily with low light levels. We have friends who do well with the species in terrariums too. We grow plants in our cloud forest greenhouse (minimum 12C)

Jan 3rd 2024 - Masdevallia tovarensis

Happy New Year to all our readers. 

Masdevallia tovarensis is one of our favourite masdevallias. It is very floriferous thanks to two great characteristics. Firstly it produces its large white flowers in twos and threes at the end of its flower spikes, and secondly it repeat flowers from last year's spikes and so make a fantastic show.

Masdevallia tovarensis has a restricted range and is only found in Venezuela where it grows in wet forests from 1600 to 2400m altitude. This makes the species ideally suited to life in our Cloud forests glasshouse (min 12C) where plants are kept well watered throughtout the year.

Dec 25th 2023 - Barbosella handroi

To celbrate Christmas we have one of our favourite mini-minatures.

Barbosella handroi is native to the same coastal Brazillian cloud forests as last week's Cattleys wittigiana. The species has leaves about 1cm long and in late autumn is covered in pretty yellow and brown flowers on thin stems. Plants flower from old and new leaves and so a mature plant like this one has humdreds of flowers that pretty much hide the plant.

We have seen the species growing in wet primary evergreen forest at Macae de Cima. Plants clothe the upper branches of tall trees in sheltered forest and to get a close look we needed to find a fallen tree. Branches are covered in moss and so the plants do not dry out for long periods.

We grow Barbosella handroi mounted, partly to show off its wonderful growth habit but also to avoid plants being out competed by moss in pots. Plants are hung in the Cloud forests glasshouse (min 12C) and are watered daily or every other day depending on the weather.

Dec 17th 2023 - Cattleya wittigiana

Cattleya wittigiana is on of our star miniature orchids. 

This lovely species is native the the cool misty cloud forests of the Mata Atlantica in Brazil. The Mata Atlantica is the great coastal rainforest that runs down the Atlantic coast of Brazil and we have both visited this wonderful habitat and seen the floral wonders of the Organ Mountains in Rio State, a days travel from Rio de Janeiro.

Cattleya wittigiana is a tiny plant, with leaves about 4cm long from the top of 3cm pseudobulbs, and the flowers at 6cm across are relatively enormous. 

We grow the species in our Cloud Forest  greehouse with a minimum of 12C although the specxies could cope with temperatures a little lower. We explored Cattleya wittigiana's habitat while leading Writhlington school expeditions in 2000 and 2006 and found that the exposed forest ridges where it grows at around 1200m - 1400m altitude were cool, wet, bright and windy. To replicate these conditions we grow the species high in the greenhouse were it gets good light and plenty of air but we water the plant daily during the summer growing season so that it rarely dries out. The moss you can see growing on our plant's cork mount has grown naturally. 

The winter is  the dry season in the mountains of the Mata Atlantica but in our visits  we found that although rain was infrequent, clouds and heavy dew mean that the forest is dripping every morning. In the greenhouse we water plants every other day in the winter. 

While in Brazil in 2000 we were able to film Cattleya wittigiana being pollinated by humming birds.

Dec 12th 2023 - Cymbidium elegans

Cymbidium elegans is a species that reminds us of the wonderful mountain rainforests of the himalayas. On our visits to Sikkim we have found the species growing abundantly in large trees where it seems to flourish on large branches were it is exposed to the sun. The forests we found it in was cool evergreen forests at around 2000 to 2500m altitude. Here the forests is mostly evergreen and the climate is very wet in the summer monsoon and in the 'dry season' mists are common and it still rains at least a couple of times a week. We therefore keep plants well watered throughout the year.

In its habitat it experiences cool nights in the winter - you need a warm fleece when you get up in the mornings with temperatures down to close to freezing, although the forests keeps temperatures a little warmer. We are just setting up our Himalayan House at the nursery where we will keep a minimum temperature of 7C although of course on Portland nights when the heating will come on are not common. Of course in Sikkim the day time temperature rises quickly with the tropical sun and so winter sun on the greenhouse is very useful.

Cymbidium elegans flowers in the autumn and its arching pendulous spikes of glorious creamy yellow flowers a re a delight. If you look closely at the photo you can see seed pods forming and we look forward to sowing the seed in our lab in twelve months time.


Dec 7th 2023 - Stelis cuculata

Stelis cuculata is one of our most floriferous orchids and produces long sprays of flowers from all leaves both young and old as we approach Christmas.

The flowers are small but beautiful with pale cream sepals surrounding its tiny deep red petals and lip.


Stelis cuculata is found in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Venezuela where it grows in wet forests from 100-1500m altitude indicating that the species is more warmth tolerant than most of our Stelis species, making this an easy species in cultivation.


At Isle of Portland Orchids we grow plants in pots and baskets in our Cloud Forest greenhouse (minimum 12C) although it would grow warmer. Our plants originate from a donation of plants from a Costa Rican orchid enthusiast in the early 1990s – he was being posted from Costa Rican Embassy in London to somewhere unsuitable for his beloved orchid collection – and it is lovely that 30 years on his Stelis plants are still doing well.


The plant shown here is a plant one year after division and we will grow trhis on for about five years before dividing it again. We find that when dividing Stelis species that the plants appreciate being split dow to about three to four leaves. Split smaller they tend to get knocked back producing smaller leaves, and splitting into larger clumps missed the opportunity to give them a good fresh start surrounded by clean fresh bark ideal for new roots.


Oct 30th 2023 - Masdevallia paivaeana

Masdevallia paivaeana is the most floriferous of our miniature masdevallia species.

The species is native to Peru and Bolivia and is reported to grow as an epiphyte or a lithophyte in cool woodland between 2450 and 2750m altitude. This habitat is cool tropical and although we grow the species in our cloudforest greenhouse (min 12C) it would be happy with a lower minimum temperature around 10C.

The species is a vigorous rooter making it an easy plant to grow and we find it does well in a small pot or a basket. We grow plants in course bark and water it well throughout the year. We have friends who succeed with the species on a windowsill or in a terrarium.

The species is happy growing in shade but is tolerant of bright light and is less susceptible to heat stress than some of our Masdevallia species. We have flowers from plants throughout the year but with a peak in the late summer and autumn.

Oct 23rd 2023 - Stelis stevensonii

This miniature orchid is native to Ecuador where it is reported growing at 1600m in evergreen forest. 

We find that Stelis stevensonii is a trouble free species to grow that produces masses of its delicate flower spikes and quickly forms a good little clump of its 5cm long leaves. The species grows well in a shaded spot and does not need strong light to flower well, in fact we have grown the species successfully in very low light levels when short of space. The species is also warmth tolerant and though we grow the species in our cloud forest greenhouse (min 12C) it seems happy grown either warmer or cooler (down to 10C). We grow plant in pots and baskets where it enjoys being well watered throughout the year and we never let it dry out for significant periods.

Oct 16th 2023 - Masdevallia decumana

This stunning orchid is the one we feature in our logo.

Some orchid species have more appropriate names than others and this one is spot on as ‘decumana’ means large flowered. The 7cm flowers on this species rather dwarf the 5cm plant which we find prefers to be mounted, though can also be grown in a small pot.

Our philosophy when it comes to mounting plants is to always use bare cork with no added moss and to fix plants firmly with a twist of thin green wire through two drilled holes. Our observations in the wild indicate that orchid roots like to be firmly attached to the bark of the host tree and we find that in cultivation the same applies. The moss on this cork has all arrived naturally and shows the cool damp conditions we provide for our Masdevallias.

Masdevallia decumana is native to cloud forests in Ecuador and Peru from 1000-2500m. We find it enjoys our cloud forest greenhouse (Min 12C) where it is kept well watered all year.