Sunday, January 27, 2008

Orchid Photography from the American Orchid Society

While in southern Florida the week before last I had the opportunity to visit the American Orchid Society visitor center and botanical garden in Delray, FL. I though you might enjoy seeing some of the many different orchids I came across that day. There were orchids planted out in the gardens which included both terrestrial orchids growing in the ground as well as epiphytic orchids mounted and living attached to larger trees and shrubs. The AOS also has a large display greenhouse that was loaded with a tremendous number of displays and species. Being that the orchid family is one of the largest plant families in the world I must admit that I was not able to identify nearly as much as I would have liked. There were signs on quite a few and otherwise I'm presenting my best educated guess. Enjoy. Spathoglottis plicata is a terrestrial orchid that was planted throughout the garden beds outside with these purple pink flowers standing about 2' to 3' tall. The rest of the plant is a clump of long green leaves with an interesting texture from which these long flower spikes emerge.
This Prosthechea cochleata was growing inside the greenhouse. Commonly called a clamshell orchid or cockleshell orchid, the shape of their flower did make them look like they were trying to swim away from the pot they were planted in. I had only ever seen this plant on the cover of an old botany textbook so I considered this a real find.
This is a type of Epidendrum, and possibly an Epidendrum cinnabarinum, but I'm not 100% sure I've got the species correct. Most epidendrum have a flower with that long column and lip, but not all have it standing upright like that. Here that column is a nectary tube and you can see how the lip is more yellow and deeply lacerated, I'm guessing to attract a certain pollinator. If I'm correct on the species then this orchid is native to the northeastern coast of Brazil. Here it was planted out in the gardens between some rocks anchored in a light humus medium.
This orange Vanda was one of the first orchids to catch my attention once I entered the greenhouse. Vandas are monopodial growers, which means all the new leaves come out of out of the top of the plant, so you often see them in small open baskets with their roots hanging down freely. They are often grown in very little planting medium which means that they rely heavily on regular watering and high humidity, so unfortunately they're not always the easiest for the amateur grower.
I'm guessing that the above and below orchids are two different kinds of Cattleya. Given the size and general shape of these flowers, not to mention the pseudobulbs they emerged from, I'm pretty confident. Cattleyas have some of the larger orchid flowers in regular cultivation and with their large carbohydrate and water storing pseudobulbs they are durable as well. Cattleyas are now being hybridized and crossed with a number of other orchid genera, and the results are large flowering plants with excellent variations of flower shape, color, and fragrance.

Most people know Phalaenopsis, commonly called the moth orchid. We see them almost everywhere now but their shape and design forever amaze me. Phalaenopsis are also helpful when describing basic orchid flower morphology. All orchids have three sepals and three petals, and one of the petals differs from the other two in that it has evolved to a unique shape we call the lip. Here the sepals are conspicuously behind the petals and positioned at 12, 5, and 7o'clock. The two petals are on the sides and the third you can see is that unique darker colored lip at the lower forefront of the flower. In the case of Phalaenopsis, as with most orchids, the lip is a perfectly designed landing perch for their pollinators, which are then guided right past the column where they will pick up the pollinia before moving on to the next flower.
This is a Phragmipedium, a kind of slipper orchid native to Central and South America. Phragmipediums are epiphytic orchids without pseudobulbs that often live at high elevations and require high humidity. In terms of the flower morphology, these flowers have a lip that traps the pollinators within itself and in order to escape they must climb out a certain way that inevitably causes the column to attach the pollinia to them before they move on to the next flower. Whereas most flowering plants have separate stamens (male reproductive organs) and pistils (female reproductive organs), orchids are different in that their sex organs are united in one unique structure called a column. Sacs of pollen are called pollinia, and often sticky to the touch, they get attached to and carried off by pollinators without them even knowing. Again, the relationship between orchids and their specific pollinators is forever amazing.
I am guessing that the above and below orchids are Brassavola, but perhaps they are a relative of Rhyncholaelia. As you can see the plant above growing perched atop a flat-hanging board, these orchids are epiphytes as well.

Here an epiphytic orchid can be seen in its natural environment, growing attached to the branch of a larger tree. At first the orchids must be tied and trained to another plant using some sphagnum moss and twine or fishing line. Eventually the velamen surrounding the roots, the protective layer that helps with water absorption and blocking the suns rays, will adhere to the trunk enough that the plant will be able to continue to grow up the tree on its own.
Enjoy the rest of these beautiful flowers and I'm going to keep spilling over my encyclopedias to see if I might be able to identify a couple more. Thanks for viewing and if you are interested to learn more about orchids and orchid care, please don't hesitate to contact me.

For this entry I used Flora: A Gardener's Encyclopedia by Timber Press and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Orchids edited by Alec Pridgeon, also a Timber Press publication.

(Please note that all the above photography is the property of Alex Feleppa and should not be duplicated or used without written consent. Thank you. -AEF)

Garden Photography from the American Orchid Society

While on vacation down in Florida the week before last I visited the American Orchid Society visitor center and botanical garden in Delray, FL. Their outdoor gardens are filled with a large selection of plant material: trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, palms of all sizes, and of course orchids everywhere. These photographs are of plants other than members of the orchid family that I discovered in the gardens that day. Enjoy.

Barleria oenotheroides is commonly called yellow barleria and belongs to the family Acanthaceae.

Solandra longiflora is commonly called golden chalice or chalice vine and belongs in the nightshade family, Solanaceae. This species is native to the West Indies, has more of a climbing habit, and grows in USDA Zones 10-12.
Stropanthus gratus is commonly called climbing oleander or India rubber vine and belongs to the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. Native to tropical western Africa, this semi-climbing shrub does well in Zones 10-12.
This is the flower cluster of a certain Begonia that I was not able to identify to species or cultivar. It was a shrub form with these fabulous pink clusters of blossoms. I was able to tell it was a begonia because of the distinctive leaf shape and imperfect flowers, which are either male or female.
This flower spike emerged out of the center of a plant with long, narrow, leathery leaves with spines along their edges. Even though I was not about to identify it to species and/or cultivar, I am pretty certain that given the fluting habit of the plant and the flower spike it is a member of the bromeliad family, Bromeliaceae.
Bambusa vulgaris 'Vittata' is commonly called golden or yellow-stemmed bamboo and belongs to the grass family, Poaceae.
This is a kind of Heliconia, a group of about 100 species of tropical evergreen perennials belonging to the banana family, Musaceae. Even though identifying Heliconia to species can be tricky, the small flowers backed by those brightly colored bracts can allow you to identify to genus with some ease.
You might be able to tell by the foliage and placement of the flower spike that this Portea alatisepala is another member of the Bromeliaceae family. Native to Brazil each of those purple buds will open to a narrow tubular flower.
Lastly there were a lot of tropical ginger in bloom, this one a red ginger, Alpinia purpurata. The ginger family is botanically referred to as the Zingiberaceae. Native to Melanasia, the upright red flower inflorescence stood just about 6' or 7' feet tall and over time might grow to 10' or 12' tall.

(please note that all the above photography is the property of Alex Feleppa and is not to be copied or duplicated without written consent, thank you. -AEF)