Angraecums

Angraecums
Aerangis Elro

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Angraecum praestans

       This post is centered around two Angraecum praestans seedlings.  The majority of former posts in this blog dealt strictly with the culture of first time bloomers or established plants.  I thought it would be helpful to those beginners in understanding and seeing the progression and development of an individual species in culture.  I stress so often that how I do things should be looked at as a starting point.  You should do research prior to attempting to grow a particular orchid in your climate and growing conditions.  What works for one may not work for another.

  Angraecum praestans seedlings

Natural habitat of Angcm. praestans is the western and northwestern areas of Madagascar.  It is usually found growing as an epiphyte in dry woods.  It has been found on cliffs and in smaller trees in sandy areas and in sand dunes.

       I chose Angcm. praestans because of the similar growing conditions here in South Florida compared to that in Madagascar.  Keep in mind that the seasons are reversed because of the different hemispheres; the northern hemisphere's rainy season is the southern hemisphere's dry period and vice-verse.  There is a period during the cooler months here in South Florida that temperatures may drop below the natural habitats extreme low of 57 degrees F (14C); those days are numbered between 6 and 12 days.  The plants would be protected by either covering them or moving them into a warmer area.
       Once these plants reach a mature height, the stems will be close to 12 inches (30cm) tall.  As all Angraecums, leaves form opposite each other the length of the stem.  They are arched with a leathery substance; they will be between 10 - 12 inches (25-30cm) long.  New plants develop at the base of the plant and can start while the plant is still a seedling (as seen in the image below).

Angcm. praestans seedling with a new basal plant developing.

       The seedlings were placed in terra cotta 3 inch (8cm) pots with numerous holes for faster drainage and for air movement.  The material used for potting was a combination of medium sized charcoal and clay pellets (non-organic).  This medium allows for fast drainage, air movement and space for the thick roots to grow freely (roots are about .25 inches (6mm) thick).  When the plants eventually do mature in size, the present terra cotta pots will be cracked open carefully and set into larger pots with additional material being added around the broken pot and medium.  As with any developing orchid, it is best to pot when the plant is actively growing; allowing the plant to establish itself quicker.

 These seedlings will be grown in these pots 2 - 3 years before being placed in either larger pots or baskets.

       In it's natural habitat, Angcm. praestans grows as an epiphyte in dry woodlands, large bushes in sand dunes and cliffs not far from the coast. It is neither a large showy plant or a compact one.  As stated earlier, it's stem will barely be 12 inches (30cm) high.  Mounted plants seem to grow slower yet excel when the root system is exposed to moisture for a longer period of time being in a pot.  It is imperative that the roots be allowed to breath and dry out some; using the proper size medium and making sure the air movement is strong enough will be similar to the plants requirements from its habitat.
       Rainfall here in the northern hemisphere closely matches the seasonal rain amounts in the southern hemisphere.  I start watering the plants every other day in early to mid April and will often water everyday when temperatures hold over 90 degrees (32 degrees C).  The rain fall amounts peak in July through September as well as the temperatures being high.  Late September rain starts to dramatically drop until the following spring.  Watering is cut back to every three day as well as fertilizing being cut back.  (If using water from a city water line, you should flush the medium with rain water or RO water to clear most of the salts.) 
       The blooming period usually begins late winter; prior to the rainy season.  A well grown plant can produce  2 - 3 inflorescence with each producing 3 - 5 flowers.  Blooms can be up to 4 inches (10cm) wide by 3 1/2 inches (9cm) long.  Sepals and petals are greenish to yellowish in color while the lip is always white.  The nectary ranges in length from 3 1/2 inches (9cm) to 5 inches (13.3cm) long and are usually greenish in color.
       The amount of light the seedlings receive should be less than a mature plant; about 2,000 foot candles.  Once the seedlings have been established in the pots for about a year, they will be moved into bright light (no direct sunlight), about 3,500 foot candles.  
       I use a balanced fertilizer every week and change that to every 10 -14 days during the cooler months.  These seedlings will be treated with two systemic fungicides every three to four weeks.  Alternating the fungicides every three months.
       I will update this post every 4 - 6 months to show the development of the seedlings.  A very special thank you to Sarah Wadddoups of the Angraecoid Alliance and to Brenda Oviatt of Botanica Ltd. for the use of their photographic images.

Angraecum praestans bloom  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Ghost Orchid, Into the Slough

       I would like to introduce a new guest writer that submitted an article pertaining to Dendrophylax lindenii; commonly referred to as the "Ghost Orchid".  I thank Wendy Mazuk for taking the time to write about her growing interest, obsession and or passion about one of the rarest orchids on earth.  The image below is that of the rare "Ghost Orchid" which was taken in a greenhouse outside of Chicago, Illinois (not an easy task growing in culture).  Four additional images have been added to the post courtesy of Wendy Mazuk.

  Dendrophylax lindenii (the "Ghost Orchid)

Into the Slough

 

By Wendy Mazuk

       My Adventure into the Florida sloughs began by reading the book "The Orchid Thief", by Susan Orlean.  Growing up in Florida as a frequent visitor to the Everglades, I was always happy to learn more about Native Florida.  Upon learning about this book, I chose it strictly by its name for a class project.  As an active orchid grower I couldn't resist; the name caught my attention.  It was one of the best books I have read and fast-tracked my interest to learn more about this wonderful orchid.
       A slough is known as a slow moving, shallow river beneath a protected canopy of bald cypress trees, the water is warmer than normal in the winter and cooler in the summer.
       My introduction to the Ghost Orchid began with a variety of research projects at Florida Gulf Coast University.  In my findings i discovered that there had not been much research collected on the Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii).  So i set out to meet the head park biologist of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Mike Owen.  Excited to learn more I spent the majority of my summers out in the swamps.  The Ghost Orchid is one of the rarest orchids in the world - found only in Cuba and the swamps of the Southwest Florida Everglades; but that's not the only fact that makes them so rare...

Dendrophylax lindenii, the leafless orchid plant with two flowers.  Image courtesy of Wendy Mazuk.

       In 1844 Jean Jules Linden saw this orchid for the first time in Cuba.  Jean Jules Linden was a famous orchid hunter traveling around the world collecting orchids for royalty and for study.  Later in the 1890's it was discovered in the Everglades of South Florida.  In 1994 the Ghost Orchid's popularity was more noted by many orchid collectors ad dealers due to poachers being arrested for stealing the Ghost Orchid out of the South Florida swamps.  John Laroche, who was made famous by the book "The Orchid Thief", as well as three Seminole Indians that were arrested for poaching the native Ghost Orchid.  This caused a large controversy between environmentalists, orchid collectors and Native Americans.  Native Americans are able to collect and use a variety of native and endangered species for their cultural traditions.  The problem was that they were taking Laroche to the area where he would steal them to be cloned and sold for profit.

Dendrophylax lindenii images showing the nectary/spur as well as a flower bud.  Image courtesy
of Wendy Mazuk.

       It is believed that this orchid is a distant relative of the African and Indian Ocean genus Angraecum; it seems that orchid seed, blowing like dust, crossed the Atlantic at least once and successfully colonized and evolved in a new habitat.

       There is only one known pollinator for this orchid, the giant sphinx moth Cocythus antaeus.Because of this limitation, there is a very low probability of pollination to enable reproduction during a brief 3 - 4 month period of blooming.  Additionally, the Ghost Orchid doesn't always bloom every year - sometimes it skips a year or two.  The giant sphinx moth has a very long proboscis (tongue-like straw).  It is the only moth found in the same area as the Ghost Orchid that would be able to pollinate it.  As the moth receives nectar from the orchid's very long nectar spur, it also receives the pollen attached to it; so when the moth visits the next orchid, the pollen is transferred and pollination should occur.  Because of the low numbers found in Cuba and in South Florida, the short flowering time and only having one species for pollination, the Ghost Orchid incurs reduced opportunities for healthy continuation of its species.

Dendrophylax lindenii

       The Ghost Orchid is native to Cuba, South Florida swamps and also some surrounding islands in the Bahamas (the Bahamian variety is believed to be a different species).  The current status of this orchid is protected by the state of Florida under Appendix 2, section 5B-40.0055, the regulated plant index.  It is ridiculous to think people would steal a plant; but this is such a rare orchid that poachers continue to steal these very hard to find orchids, taking them from their native habitat.  These orchids need to be protected so that they can be enjoyed in their natural habitat undisturbed.

       To learn more about the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, click on the link below:
       Fakahatchee Strand

Friday, March 27, 2015

Angraecum Longidale

       [RE-WRITE: this post is a re-write/update replacing the "Angraecum Memoria Mark Aldridge" post dated March 3, 2015.  Some of the text has been copied to here for an explanation of the re-write.  The Angcm. Memoria Mark Aldridge post has been deleted.]

       The RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) lists the actual parents of Angraecum Memoria Mark Aldridge as follows.  The seed parent is Angcm. sesquipedale and the pollen parent as Angcm. superbum.  Angcm. superbum is a sub-species of Angcm. eburneum.  The plants that I have obtained are tagged as such; but the parentage on the tag reads Angcm. sesquipedale X Angcm. longicalcar.  This difference in parentage is the reason behind the re-write.
       The originator of the Angraecum hybrids was Fred Hillerman.  He did not register either cross because at the time each pollen parent was classified in one name (Angraecum eburneum ssp superbum var. longicalcar).  Only one could be registered and recognized so he decided not to register either.  However, the hybrid with a parentage of Angcm. sesquipedale X Angcm. superbum was registered by Connie Timm with the RHS in late 1993 as  Angcm. Memoria Mark Aldridge.  This name as been associated with both the Angraecum superbum version and the Angraecum longicalcar version. 
       After seeing the blooms on the plants that I had obtained; I was able to compare them to the plant and the blooms that were awarded in 2000 at the Fort Lauderdale orchid show.  The flowers from 2000 were Veitchii type blooms that suffered from "twisty flower", a common issue with some hybrid Angraecums that are crossed where one resupinate and the other non-resupinate.  The flowers tend to open facing down with the nectary/spur pointing in just about any direction.
       In recent years, the RHS has started making certain sub-species and variations their own distinctive species.  With this now in play, the hybrid created by crossing Angcm. sesquipedale and Angcm. longicalcar can be registered as a new hybrid.  As of March 25, 2015, the RHS has officially registered this cross as Angcm. Longidale (a part of each parents name combined to create the hybrid name; the name that Fred Hillerman initially wanted to use when creating the hybrid in 1978).

Angraecum Longidale

       Angraecum Longidale will be a large showy plant.  It can reach a height of nearly 48 inches (120cm) and be just as wide.  New plants can start developing at the base of the plant; sometimes as many as three or four at about the time the plant blooms for the first time.  Keep in mind that this will vary with each plant.  Because of the size of this plant, it is best to pot it (terra cotta) or place in a cedar/plastic basket (plastic usually is best, it will not break down over time).  The container should be large enough to accommodate the plant as it becomes a specimen.
       The root system will be thick.  They can be up to a quarter on an inch (.5cm) and most form at the base of the plant.  If undisturbed, the length can be just about unlimited.  Neither of the parents like the root system messed with, the same goes with this hybrid.  Using a non-organic medium of large material is best.  Chunks of red lava rock, charcoal and large clay pellets (1 1/2 inch [4cm]) will give ample drainage, plenty of air for the roots to breath and a good amount of room for advancement of the root system.  Both parents are considered warm growing and enjoy a substantial amount of water from mid spring into mid fall.  If temperatures are above 90 degrees F (32 degrees C), I water the plants every other day, other wise I will water every three days.  During the cool months, the watering is cut back to every four or five days.  Even though the watering gets cut back in cooler months; the plant is actively growing.
       Do not let water set in the leaf axils, it can cause the root system to rot.  Fertilizer should be applied every 7 - 10 days and use of a systemic fungicide is encouraged every 30 days.  Keep a topical fungicide on hand for use between the monthly treatments.

 Angraecum Longidale with the twist in pedicle allowing the flower's lip to be
non-resupinate and the nectary/spur to hang down.

       Angraecum Longidale receives very bright light but filtered.  In early morning hours until about 11am, the plant can take direct sunlight.  When starting with a plant that is a year or two away from blooming, gradually introduce it to the brighter light.  Seedlings should be given a medium light until they are about four inches (10.2cm).

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Angraecum erectum

       I usually don't write a post until a plant has bloomed at least once.  I've made an exception with Angraecum erectum because of the potential difficulty growing and blooming this Angraecoid in the South Florida tropical climate.  With our summer temperatures of mid eighties to the mid nineties starting in mid spring and running into mid autumn; I realized I was attempting to bloom an orchid that usually is exposed to our winter temperatures of 70 - 75 degrees (21-24C) as the high and 53 - 58 degrees (11.5-14.5C) as the low all year round rather than just two or three months.
       Angraecum erectum is found in a natural habitat at altitude of 4,250 feet (1,300m) and as high as 7,700 feet (2,350m).  It is found extensively in Kenya, west to Uganda and south into Tanzania and Zambia.  I have found it to grow very similar to that of Oeoniella polystachys; growing vertically up the side of tree trunks and very sturdy heavy brush.  Once some height is gained, a series of aerial roots come from the stem and while the base roots do not develop as well.  The main difference between the two plants is that Angcm. erectum will put roots out throughout the length of the entire plant; Oeoniella polystachys will only root from the older part of the stem and not above areas of the stem that have not produced inflorescence.  The plant branches quite freely and will grow vertically most of the time as the main plant grows.
       The plant pictured below is presently 13 inches (33cm) tall and has four new branching plants with three towards the bottom and one near the top.  This individual plant has gained 5 inches (12.8cm) in the last 13 months while the second has gained nearly 6 inches (15cm) in the same time period. 

  Angraecum erectum inflorescence forms opposite leaf axils.  It is uncommon but possible to see two buds.

       The plant above as well as a second plant mounted the same way receives 1200 - 1600 foot candles of light (medium shade) daily all year round.  It is not exposed to any direct sunlight at all.  In its natural habitat, Angcm. erectum has two dry seasons and two wet seasons; each season lasts roughly two to three months.  Here in South Florida, the plant is watered every two to three days during the dry season (cooler winter days) and every morning during the wet season (mid March into late October).
       I fertilize my Angcm. erectum every seven to ten days from late March into mid November and every two weeks in late fall to late winter.  It has shown consistent growth in plant height and root development.  I use a systemic fungicide every 4 - 5 weeks; alternating two variations every three or four months to prevent any issues with a resistance to fungus.

The color of Angcm. erectum can be a light yellow-green, greenish white or a subdued salmon color.

       With the amount of positive growth over the last year or so, it is best to be overly cautious as I wait to see whether the buds fully develop and open properly.  South Florida temperatures over the last couple of weeks have been in the low to upper 70s.  One thing that can cause bud blast is heat and our temperatures are about to go into the low to mid 80s.  I will post an update as soon as the buds open and will gladly share all of the images.

 [UPDATE: February 8, 2015... The above image was obtained 2 weeks after the initial
image of the first bud was obtained.  The images below were obtained the same day
as this one.  The Angraecum erectum buds have started to open.]

[UPDATE: February 8, 2015... The flowers of Angcm. erectum are not pristine white as
many other of the Angraecoids.  As stated earlier, they can range from a yellowish green,
greenish white or subdued salmon color.  Thesse flowers are a very light yellowish
cream white.]

[UPDATE: February 8, 2015... Angcm. erectum flowers are rather small compared to the
height of the plant itself.  The horizontal spread of the flowers here is
1.9 cm (3/4 of an inch); the vertical spread is 1.7 cm (11/16 of an inch) and the over
all length including the spur/nectary is 3 cm (1 3/16 of an inch).  The sepals are
slightly larger than the petals.]

[UPDATE: February 13, 2015... There are four flowers on the
plant now.  The flowers are small compared to the plant's height;
but it is still an impressive Angraecum.  Not a showy orchid as the
larger types; but once the branches mature it should be a
remarkable specimen plant.]

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Growing Angraecum Orchids Using Semi-Hydroponic Techniques

       "This guest post was written upon my request by Professor Chris Johnson from the University of Utah.  Dr. Johnson has a passion like so many of us; orchids.  This post addresses his issue regarding the watering of various genera of orchids when he has to travel as much as he does.  A fair amount of those orchids being Angraecums.  Keep in mind, doing the research and testing with one or two plants in the beginning rather than your entire collection should cut the mortality rate to a minimum.  What works for one may not work for another."  Tom K

       After I found Tom's great Angraecum orchid blog and the related Facebook page, I sent Tom a few questions regarding Angraecum culture and made several posts to his blog.  One day I was re-potting some Angraecum magdalenae seedlings to larger pots and I sent Tom a photo (Figure 1) of one of the seedling's root systems growing in semi-hydroponic media.  After seeing the photo, Tom thought that other folks growing Angraecums might be interested in learning more about growing them (and other genera) in semi-hydroponics.

(Figure 1) Angraecum magdalenae root system grown semi-hydroponically

       I started growing orchids the way I suspect most people have.  I'd purchase a wonderful orchid at the grocery store; but I was unable to get it to bloom again.  I starting reading about orchid culture on websites and in books and figured out that our very dry climate in Salt Lake City was not optimal for most orchids.  I decided to purchase an orchidarium, which is basically a Wardian case in which one can control temperature, humidity and air flow.  You can purchase (or build) one to suit your orchid needs and budget.  My first orchidarium is shown in Figure 2.

(Figure 2) First orchidarium containing traditional potted orchids

       As you can see, at this point, all of the orchids are potted in traditional media and plastic pots.  After having significant success in growing orchids in my orchidarium, I purchased a second and eventually a third.  I proceeded to build a greenhouse to hold my expanding collection of mostly fragrant orchids including Angraecums, Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, Lycastes and Zygopetalums as well as other genera.  As my collection grew, I realized that the various orchids had different culutal needs, and in particular, different watering schedules.  
       For my job as a Professor of Computer Science and director of a large research institute, I have to travel both nationally and internationally multiple times a year.  There was no practical way I could keep up with so many orchids with so many different watering needs given my travel schedule.  Fortunately I happened upon an article in the November 2006 American Orchid Society's Orchids magazine titled "No Longer a Killer" by Charles Rhodes ( http://firstrays.com/semi-hydroponic-culture/no-longer-a-killer-aos-article-by-charles-rhodes/ ).  
       In the article Charles describes using a technique called semi-hydroponics created by Ray Barkalow; that can be used to grow most genera of orchids.  Barkalow developed the technique in part because he had a busy travel schedule similar to mine and needed an easy way to water all of his orchids at the same time.  Ray maintains a wonderful website dedicated to using semi-hydroponics to grow orchids ( http://firstrays.com/semi-hydroponic-culture/general-semi-hydroponics-information/ )  which I devoured.  I then started experimenting with semi-hydroponics myself.
       One main feature of semi-hydroponics is that instead of using an organic potting medium such as bark or sphagnum moss it relies on an inert clay aggregate media called LECA (Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate).  There are various brands of LECA, the most popular being Hydroton and PrimeAgra.  The LECA won't decay over time like bark and moss and so provides a stable medium, maintaining a constant supply of moisture with good wicking capability and providing good air flow to the roots.  According to the technique, I plant my orchids in plastic pots with one or two quarter inch holes drilled about one inch from the bottom of the pot to provide a water reservoir.  I water them by filling up the pot to the top with water then allowing the pots to drain.  The frequency of watering is determined by the season, temperature and specific genera of orchid (as with all orchid potting materials).

(Figure 3) Angcm. magdalenae growing semi-hydroponically 

       In Figure 3, Angraecum magdalenae is potted in a plastic pot with PrimeAgra LECA media.  A quarter inch hole has been drilled one inch above the bottom of the pot.  You will also notice the quarter inch black tubing with a flow valve.  All of my orchids are watered (pots filled to the top and allowed to drain) using an automatic watering system shown in Figure 4 (details for a watering system can be found at http://firstrays.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=294 ).

(Figure 4) Automatic watering system
       I have had a lot of success growing a number of Angraecums in semi-hydroponics as you can see in the photos at the bottom of this post.  If you are looking for an easier way to grow Angraecums and other genera, you might want to try semi-hydroponics.  Be sure to understand the needs of your orchids and do extensive research regarding this technique.
       Once the orchids are  well established, they will grow very well.  Re-potting is simple due to the fact you can just lift the plant from  the old pot, place it in the new container and fill the void with additional LECA.  I have orchids growing in small three inch pots all the way up to plants growing in eighteen inch pots using the semi-hydroponics.
       One of the most important considerations when moving orchids that have been growing in traditional organic media to semi-hydroponic LECA media is timing.  You want to make sure there is new root growth on the plant before transferring it to LECA, as when transitioning an orchid from any type of  growing medium to a considerably different type (or even from the same medium if the old has decayed, as the medium properties will be significantly different between old and new).  It takes a while for the plant rootss to adapt to the new medium.  Here  are two good links that describe the process of moving orchids from traditional media to LECA: http://interiorwatergardeens.com/cultural_files/hydroponics/a%20simplified%20method.html and http://firstrays.com/semi-hydroponic-culture/general-semi-hydroponics-information/repotting-into-sh-from-traditional-media/

Angcm. Crestwood            Angcm. Memoria George Kennedy              Angcm. Longiscott

           Angcm. sesquipedale          Angcm. Lemforde White Beauty            Angcm. magdalenae

       "Professor Johnson has spent a considerable amount of time doing research as well as experimenting in perfecting this technique for himself.  Be sure to follow suit if deciding to try semi-hydroponics with your orchids.  I stress again; what works for one grower may not work for you"  TomK

Saturday, November 1, 2014

First Time Bloomers (Part 2)

       This is the second group of "First Time Bloomers" to be posted.  As I said earlier, I will post new Angraecoid plants as they bloom for the first time.  On occasions, I may show a comparison of a mature plant to that of a plant in flower for the first time.

Angraecum Memoria George Kennedy is a hybrid that was registered with the RHS in 1981; the originator was D. Nail.  The seed parent is Angcm. eburneum ssp. giryamae while the pollen parent is Angcm. eburneum ssp. comorense.  Each sub-species is a variation of Angcm. eburneum.  One of the traits that stands out is that of the nectary (spur); it resembles that of the pollen parent; close to a half inch longer than the traditional Angcm. eburneum.  Another trait that is dominant in the hybrid is the nonresupinate uppermost lip; about a half inch to three quarters of an inch larger than the seed parent.  This is one of four plants that is grown in 100% red lava rock (medium to coarse sized pcs. allowing for fast drainage and plently of room for the root system to develop).  It receives a range of bright diffused sun light that measures 2500 FC to 4000 FC year round.  The amount of water the plant is given varies depending upon the time of year.  Summer watering is every other day and what ever rain it receives late spring through early fall.  Once temperatures come down into the upper 70s, water is reduced to every three to four days.  Angcm. Memoria George Kennedy doesn't appear to have a dormant period so I fertilize every week throughout the year.  I have observed an extremely fast development in the root system where the roots will begin to grow outside of the pot or basket; be sure to prevent those roots from attaching to anything around the plant.

 Angraecum leonis, this individual plant is the Madagascar variety; the other variety is from the Comoros Islands and can be more than double the size (see the post dated February 25, 2013, Angraecum leonis [Size Identifies]).  Angcm. leonis, no matter the variety usually will show you when there is a lack of water reaching the plant.  When the plant is young, its root system hasn't really reached any length.  Leaves that show a sign of wrinkling is a warning that the plant is under stress for lack of water.  It is imperative that you watch younger plants for this sign.  A strong indication of a healthy root system is the thickness of the leaves; moisture is stored in those leaves where carbohydrates are produced to nourish the plant.  The Madagascar variety usually has leaves that are 2 to 3 times thicker. A trait common due to the lack of rain in the region.  The Comoros variety receives a large amount of rain and will be more than twice the size as mentioned.  As either variety of the plants matures, it will start to produce an aerial root system (in a natural habitat, the root system secures the plant to the branches and limbs and provides more moisture and nutrients).

  Aerangis mystacidii X Aerangis decaryana; registered in November, 2012 by Sarah Waddoups (congrats Sarah), the originator was Klinge Orchids.  The above images were the first blooms from October 2013.  The plant is mounted to a 4 x 6 inch (10x15cm) cork slab.  It receives 1,800 - 2,500 FC of medium light daily.  It is watered every morning in South Florida's 10 month warm season and very often misted late afternoon if temperatures are in the upper 80s or higher.  Watering is cut back to every other day throughout most of December and January.  The plant receives fertilizer every week through the warm season and every two weeks during the two cooler months in Winter.