Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rhynchostylis coelestis in bloom

Our Rhynchostylis coelestis has opened it's blooms! We bought this plant at the Exotic Plant Company in Franschhoek during our holiday in Dec/Jan - OOAB's Senior Management liked the look of this plant perched in a basket with roots dangling out and crazy spiky leaves. I googled it on my phone, decided the flowers looked quite nice and it came home with us, suspended behind the headrest of the driver's seat!

We've been watching the slow growth of it's flower spike - and then spikes - with interest over the past few weeks. It's finally put on a good show, so I thought I'd share the flowers with you all.

Rhynchostylis coelestis
Close-up on spike

Rhynchostylis coelestis
Most of the spike in bloom!
Rhynchostylis coelestis
I tried some backlighting; I quite like the result.
A recent thread on Orchid Board asked why we always photograph orchids in such "boring" light!
Well, here's an experiment :)
Make sure you view full size.
Rhyncostylis coelestis
Close-up of flower
Rhyncostylis coelestis
Side view of flower - not something you see often!
Rhyncostylis coelestis
View down the flower spike.
Rhynchostylis coelestis
Two spikes!
As always, you can click on the pictures for larger size versions - it's worth the few seconds wait to see the full detail. Photos taken with 2 flashes, 100mm Canon macro lens at f32 1/60th second exposures - total flash lighting.

I've tried having a deep sniff of these flowers for two mornings in a row; the over-riding impression my nose gets is a slightly sweet, very "waxy" crayon-like smell. OrchidWeb considers their flowers to have a grape-like scent. I don't smell that at all! I keep forgetting to sniff it in the evening to see if there's a change; many orchids change the amount of scent they produce over the day/night cycle; our Zygopetalum and Lycaste for example are very fragrant in the morning, but hardly have a scent at night.

According to IOSPE, these plants are found across Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia from sea level to 700m altitude in deciduous to semi-deciduous forests.

Rhynchostylis has been quite commonly used in hybridising programmes to reduce the size of various vandaceous species. For those that aren't too familiar with orchids, Vanda often produce huge flowers several inches across - but the plants can be several feet long, which is a bit unwieldy! Ascocentrum and Neofinetia have also been used for this. For example, Vascostylis includes Ascocentrum, Vanda and Rhynchostylis; Darwinara combines all four (Ascocentrum, Vanda, Neofinetia and Rhynchostylis); you can find more examples here.

We care for ours by misting the roots once or twice a day with RO water, and soaking it in a fairly weak solution of fertiliser about once a month for 15-20 minutes. An oscillating fan regularly blows across it on a low setting. We had a bit of a problem with a fungal/bacterial infection a while back, but we chopped off the affected leaves and stopped misting the whole plant, and it's been fine since. I suspect it would be happy with a more regular fertiliser treatment! There are quite a lot of new roots growing at the moment. As with all bare-rooted orchids, you have to watch out that you keep up your watering schedule, or they will suffer. I'm becoming increasingly fond of basket/mounted plants - I am a compulsive waterer, and mounting orchids is not only somewhat more natural, it also tends to avoid problems with root rot and the like in the hands of those that like to sprinkle their plants! Suggested light levels are 2,000-4,000 foot candles - a bit brighter than where we have it, I'm sure, so I might move it across to the window where my Ascocentrum and Vanda are hanging. Of course, it's also a major pain if you go away and have to entrust your orchids to someone else. I know of one orchid fanatic that takes her mounted orchids on holiday with her!

Can't wait for the other spike to open too; OrchidWeb suggests we're in for a long show of 1-3 months! I'll let you know when the other spike opens. I also plan to clean my camera's sensor again soon. One disadvantage I've noticed with DSLRs is the regular appearance of dust and dirt on all your photos.

Incidentally, if any readers have particular questions on orchids, or would like to see a particular post topic, I'm more than happy to try and answer them/feature such a post.
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