Angraecum leonis

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Where Are You Visiting From?

I am trying to map out where the visitors of this blog are from.  If the blog is helping you in anyway; please take the time and leave the CITY and COUNTRY you are from.  If in the US, just leave the CITY and STATE you are in.  You do not have to leave your name and please don't leave your email address.  Just put the info in the COMMENTS section of this post.  Thank you to all that have visited the blog.  Many more posts are on their way.    Enjoy!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Angcm. longicalcar: "Saving the Three Sisters"

     This post will concentrate on two issues.  The first deals with the effects that severe under-watering will have on Angcm. longicalcar (Angcm. eburneum ssp. superbum var. longicalcar or just about any other orchid for that matter) and the attempt to save three plants (the three sisters).  The second will deal with the specific culture for Angcm. longicalcar.  A species that is now considered extinct in areas that the plant once thrived (I'll address this later in this post).  An unfortunate reality that is claiming too many of the orchid species; not only in Madagascar; but throughout the world.
     Both of these issues will be dealt with simultaneously.  I am certainly not trying to confuse anyone and I do think this will flow quite easily.
     I recently confiscated; sort of took possession of three Angcm. longicalcars from a hobbyist that was slowly letting them completely dry out.  Under-watering them is a severe under statement.  Upon inspecting them, I determined that they would not have lasted much longer in the conditions they were in.  All three of the plants were purchased at the same time about two and a half years ago.  Slightly larger than what would be considered large seedlings.  Several of the older leaves on all of the plants are 12 - 14 inches long (32-35cm).
     The first indication that there was a severe problem with the plants was the conditions of the leaves.  The leaves of Angcm. longicalcar are very strap like and have a heavy substance about them.  Not having a pseudo bulb to hold moisture, the leaves will hold as much as they can.  As you can see in figures 1 and 2, the leaves have started to wrinkle.  The plant is taking stored moisture from the leaves and that moisture is not being replaced.

figure 1                                      figure 2

     You can also see several marks in the leaves being caused by a fungus.  Those marks will forever be on the leaves; even after treatment.  A healthy plant can live 50 plus years and the leaves will stay on the plant for the majority of that time.  Keeping the plant healthy will ensure a better looking specimen.
      Another observation of the plants was that they were potted in only a 5" pot.  They gave the appearance that they were pushing themselves out of the pots.  Angcm. longicalcar is a variation of an Angcm. eburneum; they can grow to 2 - 4 feet high (although a plant in culture will very seldom grow much higher than 3 feet, a little under a meter).  An Angraecum that doesn't like it's roots messed with and only in a 5" pot (re-potting would certainly be needed, which it did need).  My rule of thumb is to put the plant in a pot that it can grow into (a practice that goes against most other orchid species, most prefer to be snug in their pots). 
     There was little to no organic potting material left in the pot either.  What very small particles were left was nothing more than a bit of dry compost which tells me that a fine mix of medium was used to pot the plants initially (figures 3, 4 & 5).  When potting Angcm. longicalcar, a medium to large mix should be used.  Avoid barks because they will break down and can become very moldy, especially in a sub-tropical climate such as South Florida.

figure 3                     figure 4                         figure 5

     The roots in the bottom two-thirds of the pot are dried out and no longer serve their purpose.  They should be cut off and the remainder sprayed with a topical fungicide.  When cutting the old dead roots off of the plant, be sure to cut slightly up from the affected area to be sure of getting all of the decay.  The orchid's roots are usually thin strands covered by a spongy material called velamen.  This material absorbs the moisture and the nutrients and supplies the plant.  If this velamen is withered, broken, dried out or missing; the root is no longer doing its job.
     [UPDATE Sept. 12, 2012: one of the plants is showing new root growth on two different areas of an aerial root; the crown has shown some strong healthy growth as well; the other two plants are holding their own; only time will tell].
     [UPDATE Nov. 23, 2012: the third plant has started to show very strong new root growth at the basal section of the plant along with two new roots developing at two of the lowest leaf axils.  The basal root growth is close to three inches (7.8cm) with the green root tip 3/4 inch (2cm) long.  The roots coming out from the leaf axils are about 1/2 - 3/4 inches (1.3-2cm)in length and a very solid green.  There is also a new leaf in the crown.  The number two plant as yet to show any new growth in roots but it is holding on.]
[UPDATE Nov. 23, 2012: three new root growths on the third
Angraecum longicalcar plant.  It also has a new leaf growing in the crown.]
     [UPDATE Nov. 23, 2012:  South Florida's version of winter has started setting in with temperatures in the mid to lower 70s F during the day and dropping to the mid fifties on occasion.  I am still watering the Three Sisters every three days and using a regular amount of fertilizer and fungicide as though it were mid summer.  I think the 15 - 20 degrees difference from day to night is helping promote the new growth.  The first plant to show improvement has its aerial roots growing longer and has a strong crown.  The last plant is hanging in there.] 
     Once the plant has been pruned of its bad roots and the remaining roots have been sprayed with a fungicide, it is time to place in a pot or basket.  I am using an 8 inch (20cm) terracotta pot rather than a basket so that I can eventually put it into something larger. The 8 inch pot is wide enough to accommodate any basal keikis that may develop during this period.  Normally I would use a larger container now but I am trying to save the plants and hope they will someday thrive.  The terracotta pot can be broken up around the plant and everything put into a large basket in 2 - 4 years; including the broken pieces of pot still stuck by the roots.
     Angcm. longicalcar is a combination lithophyte and semi-terrestrial.  It grows between rocks and into the dead plant materials that gets caught between those rocks.  Use a medium to large mix of charcoal, aliflore or perlite, some tree fern material, coconut chunks and a small amount of moss to help hold moisture.  Make sure that the mix is worked down into the pot with no gaps.  It is also wise to use a pot clip to help give the plant stability (figures 6 & 7).

Figure 6                           Figure 7

     This plant will grow as wide as it is tall and become very fan like.  I usually add some marble chunks to the bottom of the pot to give it weight and prevent the wind from blowing it over.  I have also used bunji cords to help keep the pot secure.
     As you can see in figures 6 & 7, the crowns seem to be in pretty good shape.  I've place a time release fertilizer in the pot to try and boost the nutrients the plant was not receiving in the past.  I am keeping the plants in a bright shade to prevent any burning of the leaves due to the plant's bad care in the past.  I will be very careful not to over water and add to the present issues.  With a regular and steady watering regiment, the plant will hopefully show improvement.
     They will be fertilized every 7 days.  Have a systemic fungicide applied about every 3 - 5 weeks (keeping a topical fungicide ready in case needed).  I will use an insecticide about three times a year unless absolutely necessary. 
     If everything goes according to plan, the three Angcm. longicalcars will be back in a much brighter light, with a routine that will bring them to the fantastic specimens they can be.
     [UPDATE Aug. 5, 2013:  Its been just over a year since I started caring for the "Three Sisters".  All three of the plants seem to have recovered from their dehydration episode.  A couple of the leaves that were severely wrinkled did fall off but the good news is that the crowns of all three plants have thrived with two of them having three new leaves and the other two leaves.  Thick root systems have developed as well as some new aerial roots emanating from the base of the plant.  All of the leaves on all three plants are now a thick leathery makeup as they should be.  Early this fall the three plants will be moved into a brighter light for several months before being put in partial sunlight next spring.  Hoping beyond hope that I can get them to bloom in another year or two.]
     [UPDATE Sept. 18, 2013: The "Three Sisters" have been moved into slightly brighter light.  From mid morning into mid afternoon, the three plants will receive about 2,500fc compared to the 1,200fc they received while recuperating.  Mid day they are getting about two hours of 20% spackled sunlight.  The footcandles level does jump to about 4,000 for about an hour or so but that is still filtered light (because of the sun starting to head into the southern sky and it setting).  With temps still in the upper 80s to low 90s for another month, they will be watered every other day.  They look so much better than they did last July.]
     The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed Angcm. longicalcar as CRITICALLY ENDANGERED on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  It is now extinct in locations such as Analavory and Itasy Lake (over collection and bush fire eliminating the plant from these areas).  It is now only found in the rocky Itremo Plateau in Ambatofinandrahina.  Less than 25 plants remain.   These plants are monitored regularly and are still being found as cut-up for collections.
     Another cause for alarm is the apparent lack of a pollinator.  Only one dried seed pod has been seen in the last couple of years with no sign of seedlings.  One can not exist without the other.  It seems the two are on a very sad path to extinction.
     However, through the seed programs that have been set up and the growers here in the United States and overseas; we are being given a chance to try and save this species.  If you do have an opportunity to purchase one of these exquisite plants, do so.  With proper care it will provide you with years of pristine white flowers that can last 8 - 12 weeks.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What's Light Got To Do With It?


     NOTE: This post is to give anyone an idea how I determine the quality and quantity of light for my plants.  The conditions that you reside in will vary in different amounts.  Use this as a stepping stone to determine the light for your plants!
     At every lecture/presentation that I've done over the last four years, one of the most common questions has dealt with light.  As I have said numerous times, "Give an Angraecum what it requires and it will reward you with years of some of the most unique flowers you can encounter in the orchid world".  So keep in mind that there are Angraecums that require bright light (direct sunlight to some extent), there are some that thrive in medium to dark shade and then there are some that don't really seem to care and will do well in just about any type of light.  Use a specific culture sheet to help guide you!
     The easiest way to read the light reaching a plant would be to use a light meter of some sort.  There are several that will give you an accurate and/or usable reading in foot candles (the measurement that seems to be used by many professional growers when needing a unit measurement).  I have one called the "Rapitest" that has been dependable and did not break the bank as far as cost was concerned.  I purchased it at an orchid grower's nursery.

"Rapitest" Sun Analyzer

     It is easy enough to use.  Point the meter towards your light source, multiply the number the needle shows by 1,000 and you have a usable unit of measurement in foot candles.  Keep in mind that the numbers will vary depending on the time of year (seasonal changes in the position of the sun).  The north and south light will change the most.  Summer light from the north will be higher than winter's light and the light in the south will increase with the sun in the southern sky.  East and west light will have a minimal amount of change to the light. [Added May 12, 2013 - one of the problems that has come to my attention with the "Rapitest" Sun Analyzer is that it seems to loose some of its ability to accurately read the light after about 12 - 18 months; both of the "Rapitest" meters have dropped about 10% of the reading it gathered when newly purchased.]
     Another way to measure light is with a traditional photographic light meter that can give you an EV (evaluation) reading.  I use Gossen's "Luna-Pro F".  The meter is used in the ambient light mode (light that will reach your plant).

 Gossen "Luna-Pro F" Photographic Light Meter

     Set the ASA/ISO at 100.  Face the white dome toward the light source.  Press the larger red button on the left side of the meter in once (the smaller red button should be in the "IN" position) and then turn the dial until the needle is at the center mark "0".  The EV number will be at the bottom of the dial under the down pointing diamond mark.  The chart below contains the EV conversions to foot candles.
EV 9 - 119 fc
EV 10 - 240 fc
EV 11 - 476 fc
EV 11.5 - 673 fc
EV 12 - 951 fc
EV 12.5 - 1,345 fc
EV 13 - 1,903 fc
EV 13.5 - 2,691 fc
EV 14 - 3,805 fc
EV 14.5 - 5,382 fc
EV 15 - 7,611 fc
EV 15.5 - 10,763 fc
EV 16 - 15,221 fc
EV 16.5 - 21,526 fc

     Then again, you can always set the technical information aside and just read the light by eye.  The following list is what I use with most of my plants.
Heavy Shade; 150 - 275 fc
Medium Shade; 350 - 500 fc
Bright Shade; 600 - 900 fc
Heavy Spackled Sun; 600 - 1,200 fc
Medium Spackled Sun; 1,200 - 1,600 fc
Light Spackled Sun; 1,600 - 2,000 fc
Full Summer Sun AM; 2,500 - 5,500 fc
Full Summer Sun NOON; 5,500 - 8,000 fc
Full Summer Sun PM; 8,000 - 6,000 fc
*NOTE: These numbers represent summer foot candle measurements and will vary at various altitudes, various seasons and air qualities.  Be sure to keep a close eye on your plant placements and to watch for sun burn.  These numbers were also derived for my plants in South Florida (a sub-tropical climate in the northern hemisphere).  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Angraecum magdalenae

     Angraecum magdalenae is very often referred to as the Queen of the Angraecums.  It is one of the parents to Angraecum Lemforde White Beauty.  A hybrid that resembles the Queen herself but only larger.  It is in my opinion to be one of the most impressive orchids in existence today.

Angraecum magdalenae (photo by mini-catts)
     One of the problems with hobbyists growing Angcm. magdalenae is that they misunderstand the label information if the grower they purchased the plant from has prepared a proper label.  You will see info such as blooming time as S (spring), SU (summer), F (fall) and W (winter).  You may see the type of light that is required and sometime watering conditions.  On many angraecum tags you will also see climate conditions such as C (cool), I (intermediate), W (warm) and once in a while H (hot).  Do not make the mistake and think that it is what the plant requires; what it means is what the plant will tolerate.  Their is a huge difference.
     Another thing to keep in mind is that reading culture information on Angcm. magdalenae or any other type of orchid is to know the differences between the northern and southern hemispheres.  Such as blooming, growing and cool/dry periods are opposite times of the year.  In the east mountains of Madagascar where the plant at one time was prolific, Angcm. magdalenae blooms from mid-December into late February.  Here in the northern hemisphere, it blooms late May into early August and will on occasion bloom into mid September in culture due to the care we give to our orchids.  That extra care that mother nature does not always extend.
     Angcm. magdalenae will do best in a 6 - 7 inch shallow pot (15-18cm) in a combination of fine and medium size mixture of sponge rock (aliflore or perlite will substitute well), charcoal, fine pieces of tree fir and sphagnum moss (helps keep the roots damp).  Do not use regular tree bark.  It breaks down to quickly and you would then have to try to re-pot.  Messing with the roots on this plant can and usually will prevent the plants from blooming for 2 - 5 years.
     The stem of a mature plant can reach 14 inches (35cm) in it's natural habitat.  Although in culture it will grow to about 10 inches (25cm).  Leaves will be alternating to each side of the stem being 8 - 12 inches long (19-30cm) and appear fan like.  A mature plant will also have numerous basal keikes which will bloom while the stems are still short; however they usually bloom after the main plant has.
     Given a very bright type of light (it can handle direct sunlight without burning the leaves), Angcm. magdalenae should flower each year.  Too little and the plant will not bloom.  Climate conditions will also come into play here. The climate conditions are C - I (I - C), cool to intermediate.  The plant will grow in warmer temps but may not flower.  It prefers a day - night variance of about 20 - 25 degrees Fahrenheit with max temps not going much higher than 80 degrees F.  With it's growing season being mid-summer here in the northern hemisphere, temps very often reach the mid 90s and even into the 100s in certain areas.  It would serve the plant well to be moved into a smoke free, air conditioned room with a window facing west or even south.
     Air movement is important also.  In the natural environment, the mountains that Angcm. magdalenae grow on have a very regular amount of breezes.  In a home or a green house, the air movement should be a cross type of breeze.  Using a circulating fan above the plant, the fan only spins the same air around rather than constantly bringing in fresh air.
     During the late spring into early fall, water the plant so that the roots are always damp or moist.  Do not let the roots dry out.  If that happens, the plant will not absorb the right amount of water or nutrients to thrive.  From late fall into mid spring, watering can be backed off slightly; but still try to keep the roots from completely drying out.
     Keep a small amount of time release fertilizer in the pot and fertilize every 7 days during the growing season and every 10 - 14 days during the winter here in the northern hemisphere.  A systemic fungicide should be used every 4 - 6 weeks.  Watch for black spots or patches on the bottom of the leaves.

Angcm. magdalenae (photo by Lynne Tyson)
     A mature blooming plant will produce numerous inflorescence with 2 - 3 flowers on each.  The inflorescence develop underneath the leaves and are short with the blooms beinging tight to the plant.  Flowers will appear on the younger basal plants but usually don't open until the main plant has already bloomed.  Flowers are about 4 inches (10cm) high by 3 - 3 1/2 inches (8-9cm) wide.  The spur or nectary is about four inches (10cm) long and is shaped slightly like an S.  The lip is broad and each of the petals and sepals are widest towards the center of the flower coming to a point at the tips.  Flowers are fragrant throughout the evening and into the first couple of hours of day light.  The fragrance is a deep spicy smell.  Flowers on a well cared for plant can last 4 -6 weeks.