Saturday, January 21, 2012

Maxillaria tenuifolia, EPOS January meeting

First of all, welcome to 2012... It's now been just over a year since my orchid collection started to expand at a fairly ludicrous rate, indeed my first post on this blog was a little over a year ago - the time has flown by!

A while back, our Maxillaria tenuifolia bloomed. These great little plants have coconut-scented flowers, which is quite a nice thing to dip your nose into! Although quite small, the flowers are quite attractive. These plants are quite compact and seem to be fairly easy "windowsill" orchids; I quite like the grassy foliage held on top of neat little pseudobulbs.

Maxillaria tenuifolia - the "Coconut Scented Orchid".

I spent most of the latter half of December and the first part of January on holiday away from OOAB; a friend kindly visited to make sure the plants didn't all dry out and die - there was one casualty (Schoenorchis fragrans), and there seems to be a bit of an outbreak of both scale and red spider mite, which need to be dealt with (fortunately, the red spider mite doesn't seem to be on the orchids - the daily mistings probably keep them at bay!). Tomorrow will probably seem me attending to those little pests...

Whilst I was away, our Lycaste aromatica decided to stop sulking and put out a somewhat underwhelming 2 blooms; these plants are fairly large, but worth the space for their attractive, yellow, cinnamon-scented flowers (think cinnamon chewing gum and it's just like that!). Unfortunately, the show was pretty much over by the time I got back.The presumably defensive spikes on the pseudobulbs are quite impressive too!

On Thursday, I went to the first EPOS meeting of the year and the talk was entitled "Phragmipediums: the Cinderella Slippers" by speaker Gavin Macdonald, who is the South African Orchid Council's official botanist, based in Durban. The presentation's central theme was that rather like Cinderella, the group is somewhat neglected and deserves to emerge princess-like onto the scene! "Phrags" are a group I quite like, indeed I have a Phrag. caudatum which is looking much happier now in hydroton instead of degraded bark mix. Through the first part of the talk I kept wondering where besseae and kovachii were - but a little later there was a "new discoveries" section that covered them! As usual, as well as covering the major species, the talk wound its way through an illustrated guide to various hybridisation attempts and noted tips on growing (like most Phrags quite enjoying living with wet feet in a tray of water - although I distinctly remember reading in various places [E.g.] that caudatum likes to be drier, perhaps even with a dry period in the winter; it was also noted that most were very intolerant of poor water quality and salt build-up).

It was quite fun to try and see the various ancestors in the hybrids, and to witness the various directions the hybridising programmes were taking. At one stage, Gavin pointed out the quite marked differences between "normal" caudatum hybrids and those with warscewiczianum in their ancestry; quite a lot of people synonymise the two, but it certainly looks like warscewiczianum deserves at least subspecies if not full species recognition - indeed, some have decided it ought to be named as an outright species - dubbed Phragmipedium popowii. It will be interesting to see where the introduction of kovachii will take things - I'm not convinced it will be in directions I like; they're rather reminiscent of outlandishly giant parvisepalum group Paphiopedilums, which I think are rather unpleasant looking toilets! Still, a plant with flowers that giant and the vibrant pink colours are likely to lead in some interesting directions. Of course, taking some 5-7 years (or more) before you see some flowers from seedlings, progress will be slow!

On the plant table there were, as always, some nifty plants; I was particularly taken by an unidentified vinicolor paph with variegated leaves, two Paphiopedilums with some Paph. rothschildianum in the backgroud (a St. Swithin and one that wasn't identified) and there was also a Phragmipedium Eric Young, the first time I've seen one.

Fingers crossed 2012 turns out to be another fun year for OOAB!