Angraecums

Angraecums
Angraecum Longidale

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