Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Cymbidium canaliculatum growing wild on campus at JCU, Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Cymbidium canaliculatum
I was shown this little colony of Cymbidium canaliculatum by one of the James Cook University Estate workers recently while organising a log for a mount for the Myrmecophyla tibicinnis. These plants are growing on top of a tall dead gum (see image below) that had preciously been cut after it had died. The plants established on their own, and I also recently found another seedling growing just a stone's throw away from these plants on a small bottlebrush tree. It is really good to see these plants doing so well. The one in the foreground has previously flowered (see dried, spent spike stalk).

High up on top of a dead gum tree
According to IOSPE, this species is found in the hollows of dead branches, and flowers in Spring. Here is a link to the university plant list, and the Atlas of Living Australia taxon page with distribution map and additional data.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Rhynchostylis gigantea alba flowering again

First flower opened today 17 June 2018, roughly a month earlier than previously. Note the yellow stippling
I have been waiting to see this old faithful again. This year it has produced about 85 blooms on two robust opposing spikes. The plant has flowered about a month earlier this year than previously, and was well fed from spike initiation through to flowering using "Garden basics plant food liquid fertiliser", which has a N:P ratio of 49:1; 4.9% N, 0.1% P, 2.4% K... makes you wonder what else is in it. It is easy to use and smells really rich, so I use it at about 2 ml per litre. The plants seem to enjoy this one - some recently mounted Myrmecophyla tibicinnis were given this fertiliser for the last few weeks, and they are all very quickly shooting new roots (see below), which is s really good sign. This species is usually quite reluctant to do anything for a while after being disturbed.

Myrmecophyla tibicinnis new root shoots
More on the mounting of the Myrmecophyla tibicinnis plant to come!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

First flowering of Vanda merrillii

Vanda merrillii first flower

Today after much stubbornness (since 2015) I finally got Vanda merrillii to bloom. This species originates from the island of Luzon in the Philippines. It is a warm grower according to IOSPE. I keep mine hanging outside under shade cloth. It gets some late afternoon direct sunlight and I keep it watered every second or third day in the heat here in Townsville. The roots seem to grow continuously all year. Some of this plant's roots are now nearly a metre long.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

In Memory of Patrick Donnelly, 13 Nov 1944 to 5 Oct 2017

Patrick photographing the endangered orchid Disa hallackii

Patrick sadly lost his battle with cancer on 5 October 2017. Here are a few of my personal thoughts of such a wonderful friend and mentor.

I met Patrick when I first moved to Hermanus with my family in 2012. I had contacted him through the Walker Bay Orchid Society and he was immediately welcoming. We shared a vast passion for orchids so we always had so much to talk about. I remember how fascinated he was in my hobby of orchid seed germination and flasking. He was a strong personality, upright and forthright - someone who I could get on with very easily. His knowledge of orchids was immense, as was his orchid collection. He always had something in bloom! I would frequently get an excited phone call about rare species in bloom to come and view. The excitement was also there when I reciprocated. I will always miss this.

Patrick was a great and true friend, and I would often seek only his counsel on various issues. I remember how supportive both he and his wife Dot were when Mel and I nearly lost our son after he was born, and again in difficult times before we left for Australia. Patrick always had a wise word to offer, and listening to his own experiences offered much hope and support, especially when I had no frame of reference of my own.

Patrick was well known and well-respected in the community. He was a natural leader and a cornerstone of the Walker Bay Orchid Society. He was always involved in so many things. He was an advocate for the conservation of the endangered Disa hallackii growing just down the road from his house, and had a genuine care for their ongoing protection and survival. He was always heavily involved with each annual orchid show event, which always seemed to be a resounding success. He always took the time to speak to everyone at the show, offering advice on growing various species and hybrids to the beginner as well as the advanced growers - a real gentleman.

We kept in touch frequently after I arrived in Australia, and it was always so good to hear his voice and to chat shop. He was strong and strong willed, but aware that he wouldn't be able to beat it this time. Slowly the time we could spend chatting became less and I often felt guilty for not being just around the corner to help him and Dot. To Dot and family my deepest sympathies for your loss. 

Farewell my friend and thank you for teaching me so much about such a great many things in such a short space of time. You are remembered with each orchid that blooms, with each walk I do into university, and always when talking shop. Rest in peace my friend.

You always enjoyed this one

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Myrmecophila tibicinis in Townsville

I had seen this very large specimen plant on my walk into university several times and have been waiting patiently for it to flower to see what it is. Today I took some photos. It is Myrmecophila tibicinis. It is a huge plant. The photo really doesn't do the size justice. It must be quite old. I imagine someone planted it in this tree many years ago and it has simply developed further in the ideal climate.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

TOS June show 2017 - WOW!

The missus dragged me from my PhD duties without any resistance to go to the TOS June show this past weekend. What an awesome event! It was spectacular and it had me wanting to take home many many plants. What caught my eye though was a beautiful Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis plant for sale on one of the tables. I admired it, then saw the price and decided a photograph would be good enough! One thing I am still surprised at here in Australia is the comparative price of orchid plants. They are far cheaper generally in South Africa... then again so are my research cleaner shrimp! Some photos:

Table of various antelope Dendrobium hybrids

Bulbophyllum grandiflorum

Bulbophyllum lasiochilum "light"

Awesome Bulbophyllum phalaenopsis

Catasetum Susan Fuchs

Coelogyne assomica

Dendrobium Bella Maree

Dendrobium lichenastrum

Diplocaulobium chrysotropsis

My son Ethan at the Cat table

Ethan next to 2 m+ tall antelope

Fredclarkeara After Dark close-up

Fredclarkeara After Dark whole inflorescence display

Liparsis viridiflora close-up

Liparis viridiflora whole plant

Unlabeled, part of mixed display... Brassavola?

First mixed display upon entry - awesome!

Phalaenopsis Lyndon Golden Eagle - unfortunately poor flower quality

Labeled as Rha. Sugar baby - but no such abbreviated nothogenus registered with RHS

Side display 1 - so much eye candy!

Side display 2

Panoramic view of the entire stadium (enlarge to view)

A table of mayumis! Nice to see an old favourite

Vanda lamellata - a long time favourite

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Odd little Cymbidium hybrid, and keeping feet wet?

When I first purchased an unlabelled, previously unflowered Cymbidium from a local here in Townsville, I had no idea what it would be... and I still don't a year later. It is a stubby little plant with very robust leaves, similar to C. aloifolium. It flowered from a very short inflorescence which barely made it out of the potting medium. I actually thought the inflorescence was initially a new growth but it stopped growing and then split open slightly, through which emerged five small buds. The flowers are small (max about 4-6 cm or so long) and are heavy, solid, thick and waxy. The inflorescence is so short it is hard to tell if it is ascending or pendulous. Maybe the next flowering will give better results. To be honest it looks like an early primary hybrid or an incidental hybrid from some attempt at crossing some of the Australian and Southeast Asian tropical species? It's not exactly prize-winning material but it has some charm about it. I love the "teeth".

Pity the teeth aren't blue - it would then have Bluetooth...
The summer here in Townsville is hot and humid. Summer is usually the wet season while winter is usually very pleasant (like Cape Town weather in early summer) and very dry. When the humidity drops things dry out very quickly which is why many of the locals here refer to Townsville as Brownsville. I had noticed a few of my plants stressing due to  drying out rapidly, so I decided to try out a simple technique that I was introduced to by a friend of mine back in South Africa. For some of the Vandas I have, I placed individual roots into small containers filled with water, placed into the pot. Within days I could see the difference. The plants used a huge amount of water daily, so I had to keep topping up the containers. After one month or so my terete Vanda is pushing out loads of new roots, not only from those I placed into the containers of water but also all the way up the main stem. New leaves pushed out the top are also longer and broader than those previously.

I purchased a large Angraecum eburneum recently and decided to use a similar trick on this large plant too. I took a 2L plastic cooldrink bottle and punched a small hole in its base. A small hole was also made in the lid to fix a wire hook and to allow for slow equalisation of pressure in the bottle to facilitate a slow constant drip out the bottom. This bottle was suspended above the plant and delivers about 2L of water in about 12 hours. Since this introduction this plant too is pushing out new roots and side roots all over the place and the leaves on existing growth have lengthened. This plant is obviously using a large volume of water too since very little if any of it runs clear of the massive root system, which just sucks it all in and appears a constant green colour and moist. This technique is useful for fertilising too, and I fertilise using the same method once per week.

Happy Angraecum eburneum with water bottle drip system