Monday, February 25, 2008

Catasetum Encouragement

One last post today while I'm in the mood...

I've had a plant of Catasetum atratum (as labelled by Aranda Orchids, Brazil) for about four years. It blooms every year with a decent spike of 6-8 flowers. The flower season has steadily clocked forward each year...I'm almost certainly doing something wrong, as the plant blooms roughly every 13 months.

The plant as I bought it was a cluster of bare-root pseudobulbs, fairly small but mature. This year's growth finally matches the old ones for size and the flowers this time ought to be really good, even better than before...but no flowers yet! hence this post, maybe the plant will feel encouraged to flower if it feels the lurve of being talked about.

One thing now troubling me: I'm not entirely sure it's C. atratum. There are several Brazilian species with spotty sepals and petals and a greenish labellum. I'm thinking now that mine looks a bit more like C. confusum, but not really like that one either cos the lip is more open...argh.

The lip on my plant is quite compressed, and slightly toothed but not fimbriate. I somehow failed to keep a photo of the flower interior, which would aid identification. The spike habit is arching rather than pendant. All descriptions of C. atratum mention the fragrance, but I don't actually remember this flower being fragrant, and I'm one of those people who really dig fragrant orchids. Could just be an oversight, but I dunno.

Bloom, baby, bloom!

O yes, the odd thing it's growing in is a clear plastic lid from a spindle of blank CDs. No drainage hole. I first stuck it in there figuring it was a convenient container while the cluster of bare-root bulbs decided to send out a new growth. After the new growth sent out roots, I was too distracted to pot the thing in a proper pot with mix. By the time it spiked and bloomed it was Far Too Late. (Alan Koch of Gold Country Orchids was amused, seeing it on the Manhattan OS Show Table.) So it's never been removed from the CD lid. It's extremely happy, sending up fine nest-roots and breaking a new lead this year. I water it by adding about half a cup, letting it sit, and then later draining the excess into the humidity tray. It gets fed along with the other plants in active growth, same method. For someone with a pitiful 25% humidity all winter, shooting up to 80% in the summer, it's a better method than basket culture but with similar results.

Yay Nuthatches!

Strolling about the New York Botanical Garden on Saturday, I was very excited to discover the place is quite a haven for a number of birds even in the winter. Added two to my life list: tufted titmouse and red-breasted nuthatch. (I used to see white-breasted nuthatches in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, near the 9th St. playgrounds. Very calm birds.)

I actually thought this was a winter wren at first, owing to the stumpy tail and not being able to see the blue-gray color in silhouette. My friend noticed the color, and then I realized the bird was head-down while moving rapidly around the trunk. Well duh!

Bulbophyllum-phile #1

I've been collecting smaller bulbophyllum species the past six years, slowly getting to know them better. (I had a few many many years ago, all mounted plants, all very very tiny but incredibly cute, mostly from J&L Orchids summer sales tables; they did well in a friend's mist chamber and vanished alas with most of that collection.) Why I like them: really nifty flowers visible without magnifying glass, easy to grow among my paphs, phals and minicatts, and so many to choose from!

I got a plant from Carmela Orchids in 2007, overgrowing a 4" plastic basket. The label said Cirrhopetalum coloriferum. Well, this turns out to be an error. It's really Bulbophyllum corolliferum, syn. Cirrhopetalum curtisii. I already had a C. curtisii (of course that was labelled B. curtisii), but the flowers on this newer plant are different, much bigger and brighter red; my older plant's flowers are streaky pale purple. So I'm not at all concerned with having a dupe.

The flowers are pinky-nail length, rosy red, not terribly stinky even close up. They last about five days (they might last longer with better humidity) and open very quickly once the buds are a certain size; blink and you'll miss them.

The spikes are about half the height of the leaves. Mine's been blooming on and off since December. The plant itself is very robust, growing on my warm middle lights-shelf about a foot beneath 4 fluorescent wide-spectrum tubes. I water it every 2-3 days, as the humidity here in the winter is pitiful.

Something very strange, that I never noticed on the older plant, is that the flowers are covered in a wet, slightly sticky substance. I've noticed this on other web photos of the species. It's visible in mine. I wonder if other bulbos/cirrhos have this characteristic, or if all clones of this species do. (This moisture is not hard-sticky like the "honeydew" commonly found on the backs of sepals of some cattleyas and related genera.)

(Be you lumper or splitter? I'm in favor of lumping species that hybridize readily, splitting those that don't, for an overly simplistic view. In the case of cirrhos vs. bulbos, I'm content to believe that plants that resemble each other from a common ancestor may have diverged sufficiently to be legitimate separate genera. I'm intrigued by taxonomy but can't help feel that, as one recent article put it, the criteria of taxonomists and pollinators are quite different when evaluating related species.)

Here's the IOSPE page for the species: