Sunday, March 18, 2012

Miltonia moreliana and Dendrobium mousmee

Miltonia moreliana
Miltonia moreliana
At the EPOS meeting last Thursday, one of the members brought in this spectacular specimen of Miltonia moreliana. This plant was at one stage considered to be a variety of another species - Miltonia spectabilis var. moreliana, but it has since been elevated to species level. Clearly this plant is worthy of wider cultivation. The previous South African Orchid Council (the AOS of South Africa, if you like!) award to this species was given to a small plant with just two flowers in 2010. There seem to be quite a lot of AOS awards at the 70-odd flower count, and there are a couple or awarded plants with over 100 flowers from Australia and the USA. I imagine the South African judges would have fallen off their chairs if presented with this. Sorry the photos aren't that great - cellphone cameras are not DSLRs!

The other spectacular specimen we saw that night was a Dendrobium mousmee 'Coleen' which is growing in the speaker's garden centre business; unfortunately, this was only photographically, but nonetheless, the statistics are impressive. He had the plant for several years without blooming and then gave it away. Ultimately, he bought it back a few years later. The plant is perhaps 30-35 years old and in that time has grown to a monster of around 5m in circumference! It has over 5,000 flowers and buds:
Dendrobium mousmee 'Colleen'
Photo courtesy Colin Silver, Stoneage Orchids
 Not surprisingly, this plant has previously been judged; in 2005 it had 3,500 flowers. I can only imagine it will continue getting larger and larger. You can see more photos of it at the Stoneage Orchids facebook album here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New spikes and flowers

Things are definitely deciding to bloom again.
Dendrobium Mini (White with Red Lip)
Our Dendrobium Mini has not one, not two but three separate flower spikes - pictured above is one of them. They're getting longer every day and the buds are starting to take shape now.

Even one of our two cymbidiums has had enough of sitting around doing nothing and is busy putting up two spikes. I have no idea what has triggered that, as I understand it usually takes cooler temperatures to trigger it, and it's been boiling hot around here, but I generally find that plants don't actually spend a lot of time reading books and sometimes resolutely resist such conventions! Given a few weeks, I suspect we'll see some flowers, but you never quite know when an orchid is going to be showing its blooms (at least, I never do!). I'd been starting to think that our little balcony just doesn't get enough light for these plants which have remained fairly unexciting grassy looking houseplants for quite some time now, but it seems - at least on that windowsill - there is just about enough! I wonder if it might be having a bit more water (Cymbidiums apparently quite like to be kept on the damp side), as it receives the run-off from a Vanda that sits above it and is regularly sprayed.

Our Stenoglottis Ganymede also has two spikes on it:

Stenoglottis Ganymede
Flowers beginning to open.
Stenoglottis Ganymede
If last year is anything to go by, this flower spike will get at least three or four times this length and be covered in blooms.

Towards the end of last year, I received an Aerangis citrata from Plantae which had two spikes on it; the flowers are now starting to open.
Aerangis citrataFirst flower to open.
Aerangis citrata
Aerangis citrata
showing spur
I really enjoy the angraecoid orchids, which have a delicate and graceful elegance to them (at least, I think they do!). I haven't detected a scent to this one but I have yet to sniff it in the evenings, when this group is usually most strongly scented. The flower has a very slight yellowish tint to it (hence the botanical name, I suspect) which isn't coming through in these photos very well.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Stelis ?vulcanica? - surprise flowering

Usually I notice when plants throw out a spike - I tend to watch them like a hawk for any signs of interesting growth. Well, actually, I doubt hawks look at their orchid collections much, so I watch them like any (obsessive?) orchid-grower watches their plants... Somehow, I missed this one that sprung up in between several leaves that had grown on top of each other; I was having a look at the plant and noticing several other promising-looking growths on the leaves, and then this spike peeped out at me, in full bloom!
Stelis nanegalensis
Stelis nanegalensis
For those of you who just like the pretty pictures, stop reading now. Beyond this point Taxonomy Alert!

I obtained this plant, labelled Stelis vulcanica, last year; it appears not to be a valid name (RHS says it should be Stelis nanegalensis), but this name still seems to be commonly used. It's also possible that this is mis-identified. We first saw a "Stelis vulcanica" at an EPOS meeting last year (the first one Senior Management and I attended together, I think); someone noted (when the plant table was being discussed) that vulcanica wasn't valid and suggested it was perhaps argentata, but it seems they probably actually meant nanegalensis! In any case, Senior Management expressed the opinion that such a plant should be encouraged to appear at OOAB, so this was duly accomplished.

Anyone have a handy (up-to-date) monograph on Stelis, preferably with keys? has some scans of various books that are somewhat helpful; one of the references notes that argentata has a small hook on the lip of the flower, which this flower has (zoom in on the full size versions, or see crop below); at the same time, there is a nice botanical illustration of nanegalensis which clearly also shows such a "tooth". It's possible one of the authors got this wrong (such a thing is not unheard of). At the same time, I'm an absolute neophyte at plant taxonomy, so I could be totally mistaken. To me, this looks most like Luer's illustration of nanegalensis, so I suspect that is what this is

Stelis, detail of lip (crop)
Illustration of Stelis nanegalensis
from Luer in Icones Pleurothallidinarum
Note lip detail.

The initial Species Identification Task Force (SITF) blog post on Stelis nanegalensis shows the detail of the lip structure well in one of the close-up photos.

Luer's monograph contains some other little gems: interestingly, it seems that Nanegal is the town where this species was originally collected from and described (by Lindley in 1858 - the suffix -ensis in a latin name can be thought of as "comes from"); Schlechter later described (what is ultimately the same species) as vulcanica in 1915; the rules of taxonomy dictate the earliest validly published name takes priority, so hello, nanegalensis! "vulcanica" apparently stems from it having been collected in or around the Pulalagua Volcano. Apparently, one can distinguish the apparently rather similar Stelis superbiens from nanegalensis on the basis of the teeth on the lips - which suggests at least some orchids identified as superbiens are not - see for example this which clearly has 3 teeth on its lip! Sadly, I don't have access to the Icones Pleurothallidinarum, so I can't leaf through the Stelis section for general inspiration, nor see what they have to say about argentata.

S. argentata is also noted to have a (single) tooth in the center of the lip - an email from Luer suggests that argentata is very variable, and may occasionally have extra teeth (argh!); ultimately though he seems to decide that the plant the SITF is looking at is nanegalensis.

These plants seem to be quite variable in both colouration and the amount of "hairyness" on the flowers; this may be simply variability, or it may just be an unrecognised species complex ; given the diversity, range and potential habitat isolation of Andean pleurothallids, that does not seem beyond the bounds of reason.  Luer's email linked to earlier suggests it's simple variability; I'm not sure if he's a "lumper" or a "splitter". "Lumpers" are taxonomists who are conservative in assigning things species rank; "splitters" tend to like to recognise diversity as valid species.

Until otherwise noted, this does indeed seem to be "vulcanica", only the valid name for this species is Stelis nanegalensis. Time for a label update!