Thursday, May 3, 2012

Winter's contrasts

Well, Winter is officially here now after the last week of cold fronts and some good rain in the Western Cape. I had my first low-level temperature alarm the other night in the greenhouse signalling the coldest night so far this year. I have been taking advantage of the cold clear nights after the cold fronts to shock my Dendrobium nobile and D. tortile into flowering. They have been hung outside the greenhouse at night to appreciate the chilly weather and have responded with some good leaf drop. I also quite by acccident noticed that my D. goldschmidtianum was budding as a result of the cooler conditions. I am looking forward to these blooms!
Dendrobium nobile
Dendrobium tortile

Dendrobium goldschmidtiaum buds
D. goldschmidtianum close up
So, while some plants are getting ready for their winter rest period, others are just beginning to send out new flower spikes. I have been keeping a close eye on my Holcoglossum wangii which has pushed out a single spike (its first ever). The buds are developing well. This species is particularly beautiful and is also a relatively recent discovery having been described as late as 1998. It is found in China and North Vietnam. Just South (literally) of my H. wangii on my mount wall is my Phalaenopsis lowii which has been indecisive it seems over the last few months. Finally it has settled in I think and has produced a new leaf or two as well as a short, developing flower spike. The plant is still really small so I am skeptical if it will flower properly - we will see.
Holcoglossum wangii budding
Phalaenopsis lowii spike
The Dendrochilum that Bradley gave me is flowering now too. The flowers are very delicate and look like they have been made out of ice. I am still unsure of whether I like or dislike the powerful fragrance that the flowers give off during the day. It is a mix of sickly-sweet and spices, an odd mix and a bit overpowering if you get too close. I am struggling to identify the species. I initially thought that it could be Dendrochilum magnum but after reading some facts about their taxonomy it appears as though this is not as easy as it seems. I will wait until more flowers open and I may then send some photos around to get a consensus. Other flowers that are just beginning to open now are Polystachya titan and Prosthechea cochleata (Anacheilium cochleatum).

Dendrochilum sp.
Prostechea cochleata
Polystachya titan


  1. I have just recently started with my orchid. I am based Cape Town. I purchased 4 very large pots of cymbidiums, I have 2 phalaenopsis. I have been reading up on alot of the information, correct ways of looking after my orchids. I want to start pollinating and growing my own seeds. In what do you put the seeds, what orchid media do you use to grow the seeds. I am currently trying to learn as much as possible and to collect more orchids. Do you know how or where I can get more seeds or small plants. I am loving it and want to learn more and noticed that you have a huge variety. Where did you get the variety and how long have you been doing it?

  2. Hi Natalie

    Congratulations on starting with your orchids. They will give you many years of joy! Cape Town weather is great for Cymbidiums but keep your Phalaenopsis warmer and out of direct sunlight.

    Growing orchids from seeds is not easy. Orchid seeds do not have an endosperm or food-source to feed the embryo during germination. In nature these seeds need to be invaded by special fungi which provide the embryo with the nutriets and moisture required to initiate germination. Without this relationship, the seeds will not germinate. What makes things even more complicated is that there is often a species-level relationship between different orchid species and their fungi. Although some (very few) labs do perform symbiotic seed germination by adding the correct fungi to seeds in vitro, most seed work is carried out aseptically and asymbiotically using specially formulated media to stimulate and support germination. I can tell you from experience that without a clear understanding of the concept of sterility and the techniques and skills required for aseptic cultivation, it is not worth investing the time and the money to grow your own orchids from seeds. However, if you have the time, resources and the training then it can be extremely rewarding!

    Many of my species I have been culturing are from seeds. I have also pollinated and sown my own hybrids and species. My larger plants I collect at various places when they become available. I have purchased good plants from Van Rooyen Orchids and Plantae in Gauteng as well as Duckitt's Nurseries in Darling on the West coast. On occasion I have brough plants in from overseas.

  3. I also recently started with my first Phalaenopsis. (Have since acquired two more.)

    I'm based in Cape Town, so I've had a few nervous days when the cold returned even though it's spring. My Phals seem to be keeping strong, though.

    1. Hi Misha

      That is great! Enjoy them and remember not to over water them! Phals hate wet feet.


  4. do u have dendrobium goldsmisctianum for sale?
    im interested'
    btw nice blog here :)

    1. Hi there.

      I dont have any i'm afraid (still have to culture this one from seed). However, I do know that Plantae does offer them for sale and you can purchase them online for R120 each (see their catalogue). Their website is:

      Cheers and thanks for the compliment.