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

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dendrobium discolor in Queensland, Australia

Dendrobium discolor 
I have been in Queensland for just over a year now. In April this year I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to visit Lizard Island on a research trip, some 30 km off Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef. On one of the days I took a walk up to the island's highest peak, Cook's Look, at about 359 meters above sea level. I spotted and photographed numerous Dendrobium discolor plants from sea level to near the top of the peak. Most were very large and many of the older specimens bore evidence of damage suffered by cyclones in recent history. What was notable was that all specimens were either lithophytic, wedged securely in deep crevices in solid rock, or semi-terrestrial, found growing at the base of large bushes and trees, but seldom in their branches or off the main trunk (see images below). 

This is the largest Australian Dendrobium species and they are dotted about in various gardens on my walking route into university. Some of the photos I have included here show the size of some of the plants on Lizard island. The species is found throughout Queensland and also in Papua New Guinea. It is in flower now, and I photographed a large specimen in a tree on the university campus where I am currently studying. Unfortunately it appears as if someone tried to break a piece off this plant because there were several broken canes left on the plant, and a severed one lying on the ground at the base of the tree.

Dendrobium discolor habitat on Lizard Island

Lizard Island

Growing at the base of a small tree

Growing in a deep crevice between rocks in exposed location

A very large specimen

Several large specimens growing at the base of a bush

Growing at the base of trees and between rocks

Growing among fallen trees and branches

A very early flower on one plant from Lizard Island

Growing on a rock  with some good new growth evident

A young plant between rocks at the top of Cook's Look

A group of weather-beaten specimens at sea level

Flowering in a tree on campus at the university


Damaged canes from attempted theft?

Fresh severed cane at the base of the tree

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Townsville Orchid Society Spring Show 2016

This morning after dropping the kids off at school, my wife, young son and I went to visit the Townsville Orchid Society Spring show at their clubhouse off Charles Street. I have been silent for a while on the blog due to my full-time PhD studies, but I grabbed the camera (and some money) and decided to do some catching up. My first thoughts were for Patrick, and I wished he could have been here to see the display plants. I was in my element!

Before browsing and taking some photos, I quickly snatched up some special plants on offer. I purchased a large Angraecum eberneum, Brassia Rex 'Sakata' AM/AOS, Dendrobium speciosum var. curvicaule, Coelogyne parishii, and Vanda merrillii. I was hoping for some more Rhynchostylis gigantea but I was probably too late or simply could not find any flowering-size plants. Seedlings were available but they were small.

I was very impressed with the quality of the plants on display, especially some of the Dendrobium hybrids that barely made it under the ceiling! Here are some photos, but the lighting in the hall was not conducive to good images - light was coming in through the many windows from behind the plants:

Bulbophyllum nymphopolitanum

Cattleya nobilor var. amaliae 'Superior 2' X 'Superior'

Cattleya hybrids

Cymbidium madidum - awesome flowers!

Dendrobium Gloucetser Charm 'Don"

Dendrobium jonesii

Dendrobium Maggy May with a bodyguard

Dendrobium nobile white

Dendrobium Peewee X (Ray Dream X Aussie Victory)

Dendrobium Roy Togunaga

Dendrobium lindleyi

Labeled as Robiquetia succisa, but unlikely!

Ludisia discolor - huge plant!

Miltonopsis Breathless

Oeoniella polystachys - don't see theses often

Oeoniella polystachys whole plant

Paphiopedilum lowii

The Phalaenopsis hybrid champion - P. memoria Jorjah Lyn Mackhunt

Phalaenopsis hybrids

Reserve champion Rhyncholaeliocattleya Karen Sunrise

Rhyncholaelia digbyana - nice to see this one

Awesome Rhynchostylis gigantea!

Some terete Vandas

These Dendrobiums are massive; easily as tall as me!

All the display plants

Tolumnia Erma Warne

Tolumnia Robsan (something) X T. memoria Ralph Yagi something...illegible tag

Tolumnia Sniffen X T. Kinnaree

Unidentified Phalaenopsis hybrid

The biggest flowers I have ever seen on a Vanda: V. Alice's Thomas

Vanda Fuch's Sunset X V. Keereeboon - stunning yellow!

Vanda miniatum

Vanda Pakchong Blue 'Kultana'