Angraecum leonis

Sunday, March 25, 2012

No Generic Culture Sheets

     I talk about it at every lecture I give; when it comes to Angraecums, don't depend on a generic culture sheet.  When a hobbyist is in their starting days, the majority of the plants they (myself included) purchase are the more common plants such as oncidiums, cats, phals, dendrobiums and the occassional lady slipper.  There are thousands to choose from and the generic culture sheet has helped us grow the plants to a respectable blooming size.  We even see the fruits of our labors when the plant blooms; especially after we've had it for more than a year or so.  It gives us pleasure knowing that we must have done something right.
     I think the better and more successful orchid growers try their hardest to supply the plants to hobbyists that they may be most interested in.  Most of these growers however do specialize in various generas of plants.  When purchasing a new plant, one that may be different than anything you've seen or attempted to grow yourself; you should always ask " it going to grow and BLOOM for me here?"  Where ever here may be!  To make a sale, a staffer or an employee working for that grower will most likely say yes.  Be sure to ask them about the specific culture for that plant.  What medium, amount of light. watering requirements, fertilizers, fungicides and possible bug issues.  Ask for a culture sheet for that genera and species.
     With the more common orchids available in mass numbers, the generic culture sheet will get you by and then some.  There are only 249 species of Angraecums in the Angraecum genera.  Sixty-five percent of these plants come from the island of Madagascar (the southeast coast of Africa).  The climate will vary from cool to intermediate temps at higher elevations (up to 7,500 feet) with some dormant time during the cooler months, mid elevations (2,000 - 5,000 feet) with constant humidity in the air from the mist clouds, sea level tropical rain forest with very large amounts of rain and humidity and higher temps. to the mid elevations that are semi-arid and have a few months of drying out time.
     No matter the location on the island; you must take into consideration the placement of the plant as to it's growing area regarding the lower trunks of trees, near running water or not, the higher canopy or whether it is growing on rock and in the dead leaf and plant material between the rocks.
     Take the time to research the plant's specific requirements and then decide if it is something you wish to grow.  Just give the orchid what it requires and that plant will eventually give you years of fantastic blooms.
     In a short period of time with a small amount of research, the plants will thrive here in the sub-tropical South Florida weather.  By making a few changes, they can be grown in the cooler north part of the United States and Canada.  As well as in Europe, Russia and in Northern Asia.
     It can be and is usually very simple.  Give it what it needs and be prepared to enjoy some very unique blooms.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Birth Of A Shooting Star

     This post has been submitted to the Fort Lauderdale Orchid Society for publication in the FLOS monthly newsletter.
     On August 12, 2010 the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) officially registered Angraecum Shooting Star.  The originators, Hendrick and Quintus Vorster, from HQ Orchids based in South Africa had created a robust plant that had become popular with both professional growers and hobbyists before the plant was even registered.  I was very fortunate and picked one up at a reasonable price fifteen months before the RHS bestowed the registration on this amazing hybrid.  It was simply known as Angraecum florulentum x Angraecum eburneum ssp xerophilum

  Angraecum Shooting Star
     As it turns out, the sub-tropical climate of South Florida is very conducive for Angcm. Shooting Star.  The development of the plant has been nothing short of spectacular.  Whether rain fall has been extremely heavy or the lack of (which we've experienced the last two years), the plant has done very well,  With an increased number of flowers through the last three blooming periods and seven new plants at the basal section of the plant.

     The plant was placed in a 6 inch clay pot with ample drainage holes at the base in a mixture of equal amounts of medium pieces of coconut husks, charcoal, perlite and tree fir.  A small amount of sphagnum moss was added to hold moisture.  During the warmer months of early May through early October, the plant was watered every 3 days.  When temperatures finally start cooling off, watering should be cut back to every 5 - 7 days.  There is a dry period for both sets of parents of the hybrid.  Keep the water flowing in culture and the plant will continue to grow and thrive.  Try not to let water sit on the leaves where they are connected to the stem.

     Fertilizer should be used once every week throughout the entire year.  It is easy to dispense while doing the normal watering of the plant.  A systemic fungicide applied once every four weeks, especially the bottom parts of the leaves (where most fungus will show its ugly head first).  As usual, it is advantageous to keep a handy quart spray bottle with a topical fungicide in case of minor issues.

     As mentioned earlier, there is a dry period for both sets of parents.  Angcm. eburneum ssp. xerophilum comes from the southern end of Madagascar.  It is one of the few Angraecums that grow in that semi-arid region.  It primarily grows as a lithophyte in very bright light.  This being the reason that its rather short for an Angcm. eburneum of any type.  The stem tops off at about 30 - 35cm (12 - 14 inches tall).  Angcm. florulentum, from the Comoro Islands, grows epephytically on tree trunks and in thick scrub at elevations between 600 - 1000 meters, where it drys out during cooler months.  It grows to a height of 35 - 40cm (14 - 16 inches) with the thickness of the stem being 4mm (about a 1/4 inch) which is less than a third of Angcm. eburneum ssp. xerophilum (1.3cm, 9/16ths of an inch).

     The leaves on Angcm. eburneum ssp. xerophilum are 13 - 15cm (5 - 6 inches long) and very thick and leathery; they hold moisture for the drier months.  Those on Angcm. florulentum are not as long (8 - 10cm long, 3 - 4 inches) nor are they as thick.

     Flowers from both parents are very similar in size (5 x 4cm, 2 1/4 x 1 3/4 inches), although the spur on the Angcm. florulentum is about 1 - 2cm longer (about 3/4 inch longer).  Total length of the Angcm. florulentum  spur is 9 - 10cm (about 4 inches).

     What does all of this really mean; if you take a little of this (seed parent - Angcm. florulentum) and mix it with a little of that (pollen parent - Angcm. eburneum ssp. xerophilum) you will get the hybrid Angraecum Shooting Star.  My plant looks to have the sturdiness and hardiness of Angcm. eburneum ssp. xerophilum but the height of Angcm. florulentum.  The flowers appear to be a combination of both, although the spur is longer than both parents, 10 - 13cm (4 - 5 inches long) and the color of those flowers is a very pristine white.  It is a very beautiful addition to my collection.          

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Angcm. didieri & Angcm. elephantinum

     I have a two for one deal for everyone in this post.  Sort of like a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  Two different species that I'm going to discuss almost as one.  Angcm. didieri gets it's name from a gentleman (Alfred Grandidier) that collected it extensively in the mid to late 1800s while Angcm. elephantinum is rumored to gets it's name from the thick pedicel that connects the flower to the plant stem.  In some circles the size of the Angcm. elephantinum's flower compared to the size of the plant may have a play in it's name.  The flower can be just about the size of the plant itself.

     Both species can be found on the eastern side of Madagascar; although Angcm. didieri can also be found in Central Madagascar at up to almost 1,500 meters in forests with high humidity.  They are epiphytes that do very well mounted on either cork slabs or cedar planks.  During the warmer months in a sub-tropical condition, they should be watered every morning and will usually dry out in just a couple of hours.  If temps go up to and over 90, they should be misted in the mid to late afternoons.  They thrive on all of the moisture as they would in their natural environment.  When cooler temperatures prevail, it is best to back off the watering to everyother day and even every third or fourth day  if temps drop below 55 degrees.  When temperatures do reach the 55 degree mark, the plants should be protected against the cold. 
     In less than sub-tropical climates such as the northen states; both species will do well in a 4 inch pot with a medium to coarse medium such as charcoal, aliflor, a small amount of moss, tree fir and coconut pieces.  Watering should take place every 3 - 5 days during the late spring into very early fall.  The plants will do well outside during the warmer months but should be brought back in when night time temps start hitting the mid 50s.
     Angcm. didieri will do very well in medium shade with a small amount of filtered bright light to very bright shade with a slight spackling of sunlight.  Angcm. elephantinum will do great in bright shade with a medium amount of direct spackling of sunlight.  It can accept a larger amount of brighter light than Angcm. didieri.
     Both species are fertilized at the same time with the same mixtures every 4 weeks.  I use a systemic fungicide every 4 - 6 weeks; spraying the entire plant.
     You can usually expect to see new root tips about ten months a year.  The new roots have a very bright silvery color to them and are warty in texture.   They do have a very short period of dormancy during the winter.
     You should expect to see flowers starting in late March well into early November in the sub-tropical climates and the summer months in the northern parts of the country.
     Angcm. didieri will produce kiekies at the basal part of the plant and will also put new plants out at the lower leaf axils after blooming.  You can see as many as 4 - 6 new plants after a first blooming period.  The height of the stem of a mature plant won't be much higher than 5 - 7 inches (13 - 18 cm).  Which makes it a compact spieces for smaller areas.  You will find 5 - 7 leaves on the stem and they are about 2 - 2 3/4 incshes (5 - 7 cm) long and about 3/8 of an inch (1 cm) wide.
     Angcm. elephantinum will grow much the same way.  Although new plant growth is not as frequent while the new growth usually comes from the basal parts of the stem.  It will grow to be slightly higher the Angcm. didieri.  The stem will average a height of 6 inches (15.5 cm) but can grow as high as 9 inches (23 cm).  The leaves of Angcm. elephantinum are longer also.  They can reach a length of almost 5 inches (12 cm) and be 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) in width.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Angraecum Longiscott

     The Angraecum that started this entire process in the early part of 2000.  This is the orchid that would become the subject of a piece of artwork becoming one of my most popular works and eventually lead me into my present Angraecum addiction.  A genera of plants that have some of the most beautiful flowers that the orchid world has to offer.  As I mentioned in my first post, it was the orchid I purchased in a plastic bag from a Home Depot store.

Angrcm. Longiscott (3rd bloom season)

     With the realization that Angcm. Longiscott was a hybrid; only fueled my quest for the knowledge of what its’ parents really looked like.  Over a period of time, those images would change due to the fact I couldn’t see how one parents attributes could overrun the other parent to the extent it did.  My question is this: how could an Angcm. eburneum crossed with Angrcm. scottianum produce an offspring with a spur (nectary) longer than either one of its parents?  According to the tag, this was the lineage.  I didn’t believe the tag.  Upon further research I found this lineage: Angrcm. eburneum ssp. superbum crossed with Angrcm. scottianum.  Looking at images of the parents still had me questioning the lineage.  And my final answer is: Angrcm. eburneum ssp. superbum var. longicalcar crossed with Angcm. scottianum produces the offspring Angrcm. Longiscott (Longi-scott).  My point is this; with the use of subspecies and variations, it was only a matter of time before the actual species’ names were shortened.  One last note to this issue; Angrcm. longicalcar is now the official classification of Angrcm. eburneum ssp. superbum var. longicalcar.  The addiction is now in full swing!
     I have found Angrcm. Longiscott to be one of the easiest orchids to grow.  It is certainly one of the most beautiful plants in my collection.  Its’ flowers can last 8 – 12 weeks if the plant is kept out of the elements while in bloom.  It is fast growing and can become a thick specimen in just two to three years if given the right amount of water, fertilizer and fungicide.

  Angrcm. Longiscott

     The plant will grow well mounted and even better in a basket or a terracotta pot with good drainage holes (up to twice as fast), Place them in a basket or pot of at least 6 inches.  Being in a media gives the plant access to moisture and nutrients longer which gives the plant more of what it needs to flourish.  As you can see in the photographs above, the potted plant is almost twice the size of the mounted plant.  They were identical seedlings at the time they were mounted and potted.  Angrcm. Longiscott grows year round, there is no dormant season.
      I water the potted and basket plants no less than twice a week in the warmer months (May through early October) while the plants that are mounted are watered daily.  Try to keep water from gathering at the base of the leaves against the stem.  It will cause stem rot if too much water sits there for a long period of time.  Watering is cut back to once a week in cooler months for the plants in pots and baskets and 2 – 4 times a week for the mounted plants.  The media that is used for plants either in a pot or a basket is a medium to coarse mixture of coconut husk, charcoal, perlite or aliflor and some tree fir.  You can add a bit of moss to hold the moisture a bit longer.  The plants that are mounted do have some moss wrapped around the base of the plant and the root system.
     Fertilize the plants once a week; even during the cooler months.  Angrcm. Longiscott is growing twelve months a year.  To give the plants a little boost, I place about a tablespoon of dynamite in the pots or baskets.  I use a systemic fungicide every 4 – 6 weeks and keep a quart bottle of a topical fungicide on hand in case of spot problems.
     Mature plants will have stems 8 – 12 inches high.  With the leaves growing up and arching gives the plant an overall height of 16 – 20 inches.  It puts out numerous keikis and branches as its maturity develops.  Becoming a beautiful specimen in just a couple of years.  Inflorescences are born from the leaf axils, grow to 7 – 12 inches and will contain 2 – 12 flowers.  The flowers twist just before they open so that the lip actually becomes a hood and so that the spur will hang down.  Flowers are about 2 ½ inches wide by 2 inches high lasting 8 – 12 weeks.  The spur is anywhere from 7 – 9 inches long.

 Angrcm. Longiscott (1st bloom season)

     Give Angrcm. Longiscott what it needs and it will give you years of beautiful flowers.  One last thing… this another one that you don’t want to mess with the roots.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Xanthopan Morgami Praedicta

     Charles Darwin (12 February, 1809 - 19 April, 1882); a naturalist, geologist and a writer.  The father of evolutionary theory writing "On the Origin of Species" which was published in 1859 and to date, one hundred fifty plus years later, is still heavily debated in both the scientific and religious communities.

     Regarding Darwin's orchid, the story goes something like this: during the Holiday season back in 1861, Charles was having dinner with a close friend of his outside of London, England.  At some point prior to or sometime after dinner, they took a stroll through the greenhouse (which were very popular among the rich at the time).  Charles came across an Angraecum sesquipedale in full bloom (blooming time in the northern hemisphere).  He was amazed at the shape, size, fragrance and of course the pristine white of the flower.  This friend had promised Mr. Darwin that he would send him several flowers after the Holidays so that he could take a much closer look at them.
      In January of 1862, Charles received several of the Angcm. sesquipedale flowers that were promised him.  After very close examination of those flowers, he came to the conclusion that a moth, with a proboscis (tongue) of least 9 -10 inches or possibly longer was the pollinator of this particular species.  Charles being a writer, had his findings published.  Almost immediately, he is ridiculed and even laughed at because of his prediction.
     However, in 1873, some ten plus years after his prediction, a French botanist, while in Brazil discovers a Giant Sphinx Moth with a proboscis of six inches long.  Many of Charlies critics begin to wonder as to the possibility of Mr. Darwin being right.  After the excitement settles down, everyone falls back into the fact that Charlie was off his rocker.
     Twenty one years after the death of Charles Darwin, another French botanist while in Madagascar discovers a moth with a proboscis of well over twelve inches.  The predicted one actually exists.  It is named Xanthopan Morgami Praedicta (the Predicted One).

Click on the play button to view this video.
     A century and a half later comes the first ever video or film of Darwin's moth.  It was the brain child of the Bug-man.  A kids favorite program on the Animal Planet Network.  The Public Broadcasting System approached him and asked if he would create a segment for the PBS program entitled Nature.  The segment would be included in the episode called "The Deep Jungle". 
     The moth is extremely sensitive to light; flash photography or movie lights would scare the moth from that area not to return.  The Bug-man used a series of Infrared LEDs to light the area and a camera that was sensitive to IR light only (not visible to the naked eye).  The above video is the result of that project.  The first ever visual account of Darwin's moth taking nectar from an Angcm. sesquipedale inevitably pollinating the blooms as it fed from the twelve inch long nectaries.
     It is a shame that Charles Darwin didn't get to realize his prediction.