This beautiful species orchid from South East Asia is admired by all who see it for not only its beauty but its fascinating long pendulous tendrils which makes it quite unique in the orchid world.
The name is derived from the Greek legend of Medusa as the flower shape appears to represent her hair which was snakes.
It can be grown very successfully in warmer temperate climates where it enjoys higher humidity, good air circulation and moderate light. It does not like to dry out so should be kept mist and sphagnam moss would be an ideal growing medium.
( Photo courtesy of Gary Yong Gee)
The plant is native to Mexico and Central America including Columbia Peru and Equador and has an unusual flower sometimes referred to as the monkey face orchid due the shape of the flower which resembles the face of a monkey. It is one of the Pleurothallids, (Pleurothallis, Dracula and Masdevallia) which are quite spectacular in both their colour and shape and are favourites among orchid growers, the reason being the variety of colours including black, orange, white. brown,pink and can be a solid colour or have spots or stripes.
Light should be restricted to similar conditions to that of Phalaenopsis or Paphiopedulums as too much light will show yellowing of the leaves. Good air movement is required as well as humidity but not warmth as they prefer cooler conditions. Plants can be repotted at most times during the year and they like to have moist conditions rather than be allowed to dry out as in other orchids. Sphagnum moss is an ideal media to grow them in. They are not heavy feeders and fertilizer should be used at half the rate on a monthly basis.
The individual flower make up is quite different because the sepals are dominant and have long tails while the petals are rather small and somewhat insignificant. Plants grow from a small rhizome but do not have pseudo bulbs which is the reason they require moist but not wet media to grow well. If you are fortunate and live in a less than temperate climate you should be able to grow and flower these unusual and fascinating orchids.
Photo courtesy of Gary Yong Gee
This orchid is uniquently different in that it must but grown in a basket or slatted wooden pot as the flower spikes grow down in the media and protrude through the bottom of the container as illustrated in the photo. Many years ago it was not understood why the plant in Kew Gardens never flowered. One day the pot was accidently broken and the flower spikes were observed trying to penetrate unsuccessfully through the pot.
The Stanhopea genus is native to South America and consequently likes to grow in tropical conditions. Given warmth and humidity it is relatively easy to grow and flower but likes to be moist and not dry out in summer. Grown under fifty to seventy percent shade cloth with good air movement would be ideal for these to do well.
Any general purpose balanced fertilizer applied fortnightly in the growing warmer months would be adequate.
Unfortunately the flowers last just for a few days and are renown for their strong perfume which some find unpleasant. But they are quite spectacular and colourful and are worthy of a spot in the greenhouse.
Max. schunkeana was placed on the species bench and although not usually seen at meetings is one of interest because of its unusual colour.
It is really dark purple-red but to the eye it looks black which is highly unusual in the very colourful world of orchid flowers.
As it originates from Brazil in South America it prefers warm to cool conditions, higher humidity and likes to be kept moist but not wet.
Flowers are approximately one centimeter wide and appear from the base of the pseudo bulbs in spring to summer.
A general all purpose fertilizer is satisfactory every couple of weeks throughout the year.
Can be grown successfully in sphagnum moss or a finer bark mix but not over potted bearing in mind they tend to spread out in growth.
This fascinating orchid is not difficult to cultivate and get to flower. If you can procure one from a nursery you will have something uniquently different in your collection.
PLANT: Bulb. Wilmar Galaxy Star
GROWER: C. and H. Baker
HOUSING: Grows well in a shade house with seventy percent shade cloth cover. Enjoys good ventilation and air movement.
FEEDING: Could be described as a heavy feeder, fertilize weekly with alternate applications of higher nitrogen and potassium fertilizer in summer and monthly in winter.
POTTING: Tends to have a spreading growth and easily outgrows normal pots. Does better if potted in shallow saucer shape pots where it will multiply as it spreads. Can grow into an attractive specimen with many flowers.
COMMENTS: This would be an ideal plant for new growers to have in their collection as it is hardy, grows well in tropical and subtropical climates.