Trichoglottis luzonensis


I stopped by The Orchid Trail this week to see what was new.  The thing about orchids is there’s always something new.  After 26 years of growing orchids, I still can be fairly sure of seeing a plant I’ve never seen before whenever I visit a decent nursery.  Often, it’s a plant I’ve never even heard of before.  This week it was Trichoglottis luzonensis.


Trichoglottis is a genus of about 85 species from tropical Asia and Oceania.  T. luzonensis, as suggested by its species epithet, comes from the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The genus name means “hairy tongue” and refers to the hairs covering the tongue-like labellum of some species.  This feature is easy to see in T. luzonensis and in T. atropurpurea, the other Trichoglottis species in my collection (See item 6 in Six on Saturday #9).  T. atropurpurea has short, leathery leaves on a vining stem and produces a single flower bud at each leaf axil.  In contrast, T. luzonensis has longer leaves and an inflorescence with many flowers, rather like a Vanda.  Perhaps the difference is flowering habit is why it has sometimes been segregated into the genus Staurochilus–which is how I found it labeled at the Orchid Trail.


The plant at the Orchid Trail had some minor sunburn on its upper leaves, but that damage is just cosmetic.  The price was very reasonable and the flowers very appealing, so it came home with me.  It will reside in my shade house until autumn, and then I’ll hang it high in the greenhouse–though in view of the sunburn, it will go in the end of greenhouse that is covered with shade cloth.


Six on Saturday #46 (August 3, 2019)

It has been more than two months since I managed to get a Six on Saturday post together, so this is a catch-up post:  six plants that have bloomed since S.O.S. #45.

1. Bletilla Yokohama ‘Kate’  (Flowered in late May)


As I previously posted, Bletilla species and hybrids are among the easiest of terrestrial orchids to grow.  B. Yokohama is a hybrid of B. striata and B. formosana, and it blooms about a month after B. striata in my garden.  The habitat of B. formosana in Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands is subtropical, probably trending towards tropical, but B. Yokohama is fully hardy in my garden during the winter.  The new growth is tender, like that of B. striata, and must be protected from late frosts in spring.  The flowers have better form than those of B. striata, and the inflorescences are daintier.

2. Gardenia jasminoides (Hardy gardenia; flowered in early to mid June)


This evergreen shrub, with its fantastic fragrance, is a perennial favorite in southern gardens.  I have two different single-flowered clones which are efficiently cross-pollinated, presumably by moths, and produce lots of attractive red fruit in autumn.  Birds spread the seeds around, and I have started to find volunteer seedlings–a nice bonus that you won’t get if you grow the sterile double-flowered clones.

My plants were badly damaged by cold during the winter of 2017/2018, but they sprouted vigorously from their trimmed stumps, and it is hard now to see where they were cut.

2. Hippeastrum ‘Mead Strain’ (Garden Amaryllis; flowered in early June)

Hippeastrum Meads_strain

This Hippeastrum hybrid is the product of crosses made by Theodore Mead about 100 years ago.  Its background appears to include a large percentage of genes of the Bolivian species Hippeastrum vittatum, and similar hybrids often masquerade as that species in cultivation.  Bulbs of the Mead Strain are common heirloom plants in southern gardens, and a very similar clone is passed around by gardeners in my parent’s neighborhood in Texas.

4.  Lobelia laxiflora subsp. laxiflora ‘Candy Corn’ (Flowers intermittently all summer)

Lobelia Candy_Corng2
This Mexican Lobelia species is much more drought tolerant than our native L. cardinalis, so I grow it in a hot,sandy bed beside the driveway.  Its bloom season overlaps with that of L. cardinalis (see photo #3 here), and both species are visited by hummingbirds, but I haven’t found any volunteer hybrids yet.  I live in hope.

Lovelia Candy_Corn

5. Eucomis cf. zambesiaca (Pineapple lily; flowered in July)


All of the Eucomis species and hybrids from southern Africa seem to be hardy in North Carolina, but many of them scorch and wilt in hot sun.  They require bright light to grow well, so this heat sensitivity creates a cultural conundrum.  This small variety sold as Eucomis autumnalis by the big bulb vendors is the most resistant to wilting of all the Eucomis that I have grown.  It looks very little like a true E. autumnalis that I bought from a specialist nursery, and I am fairly sure that it is actually E. zambesiaca, possibly the clone ‘White Dwarf.’

6.  Iris domestica (Blackberry lily; Currently flowering)

Iris Hello_Yellow
Iris domestica ‘Hello Yellow’

Iris domestica (formerly Belamcanda chinensis) is an old garden favorite, but most of the nurseries around here sell the newer all-yellow clones like ‘Hello Yellow.’  I really wanted the old fashioned wild-type orange form, too, and about two years ago I found a few plants growing wild along a power line cut.  I collected seed, and the resulting seedlings started flowering this summer, about 18 months after germination.


The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday.  Head over there to see his Six and find links to the blogs of other participants.

Two tropical slipper orchids

Here are two spring/summer-blooming slipper orchid species–one with somewhat grotesque flowers and the other more attractive–that are part of a group of species and hybrids often recommended to novice orchid growers.  As understory plants from low to moderate altitude in southeast Asia, they grow well as houseplants on the windowsills of warm, centrally heated homes.

Paphiopedilum superbiens var. curtisii


This species from Sumatra is noted for its large, dark pouch and relatively short petals liberally sprinkled with small warts.  Although the flower of P. superbiens is rather ungainly, the tessellated leaves are particularly striking, with rectangular dark sectors on a pale, almost white background.


Paphiopedilum cf. callosum


I purchased this plant as Paphiopedilum sukhakulii, but when it bloomed it was clear that it had been mislabeled.  In a genus that has been as intensively hybridized as Paphiopedilum, it can be very difficult to identify mislabeled plants, but this flower bears all the hallmarks of P. callosum, a well-known species from Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.  P. callosum is a parent of P. Maudiae (P. callosum x P. lawrenceanum), one of the best known and widely grown of all orchid hybrids.  The Maudiae-type hybrids, as the offspring of P. callosum and its close relatives are collectively known, were once exotic plants for orchid hobbyists to treasure but are now widely sold as disposable houseplants in garden centers and supermarkets.  They come in a variety of shapes and colors, but I think the original P. callosum, with its downswept petals and large dorsal sepal, has a grace and elegance that is often lacking in its mass-produced offspring.

Paphiopedilum lowii

Paphiopedilum lowii

Paphiopedilum lowii is generally considered to be one of the easiest of the multifloral tropical slipper orchids to grow and bloom, and it is frequently used in breeding to add bright colors and ease of culture to the resulting hybrids.  Unlike some Paphiopedilum species which grow only on the slopes of a single mountain, P. lowii is native to penisular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and Sulawesi.  That wide range and the resulting genetic diversity may explain the color of my P. lowii plant.

Photo taken on April 7

This particular plant result from a cross of parents that were both heterozygous for ‘alba’ flowers–that is, they carried a recessive mutation that results in unpigmented flowers.  The offspring of that cross have been widely distributed, and the expectation was that 75% would have normally colored flowers and 25% would have alba flowers.  Instead, it seems that the flowers exhibit a range of color, from dark to quite pale, but no alba flowers have resulted.  This is a fairly pale plant, and when I saw it on the nursery bench it almost glowed next to its darker siblings with chocolate pouches and lots of pigment in the dorsal sepal.

The lack of alba flowers in the cross suggests that the two parents carried mutations in two different genes.  This occurs frequently when alba specimens of two different species are hybridized, but to occur in a cross of the same species suggests that the parents were genetically distinct–perhaps a consequence of the species’ wide range.  The variation in depth of color might also be a consequence of crossing cultivated plants that originated from different wild populations.  A commenter in this discussion points out that the color of P. lowii varies among different populations, with paler flowers coming from Sarawak.

But that’s enough geekery.  Here’s one last photo to reinforce one of the best reasons to grow slipper orchids.  The flowers that I photographed in early April, several weeks after they opened, are just starting to fade at the end of May.

paph-lowii_old flwoer
Photo taken on May 19.

And the flowers of the Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum that I photographed in March are still going strong.

Six on Saturday #44 (May 11, 2019)

Another Saturday, another six plants in the garden or greenhouse.

1. Vaccinium sp.


This native species grows mainly under the deciduous trees at the north end of our property. I think it may be Vaccineum stamineum (deerberry), but V. stamineum reportedly grows 3-6 feet (1-2 m) tall. These plants form low, slowly spreading clumps no more than 1 foot tall (~30 cm) and usually less.

A second dwarf Vaccineum species, perhaps V. tenellum (narrowleaf blueberry) grows interspersed with the putative deerberry (see the first image here).

2. Tradescantia x Andersoniana cultivars (hybrid spiderworts).

Tradescantia x Andersoniana plants are hybrids of several North American spiderwort species. Given sufficient moisture, they grow well in partial shade to full sun and bloom beautifully from early May until well into June. The flowers are some of the best reasons for an early morning walk through the garden when it is still cool and wet with dew. Individual flowers are very short lived and usually collapse by early afternoon–or before noon on hot sunny days–but more flowers are open the next morning.  Bees and hoverflies love them.

Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’

Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’, with its striking chartreuse foliage, is probably the most commonly available cultivar. The leaves of my plant seem to become more green later in the year–perhaps a response to increasing night temperatures?

Tradescantia ‘Concord Grape’?

Last year, a local nursery received a large shipment of Tradescantia ‘Concord Grape’ plants which showed some variability in flower color. I picked one with the brightest magenta flowers for maximum contrast with the blue-green foliage.

I find these plants to be very difficult to photograph satisfactorily with a digital camera.  The flowers are usually over-saturated, and the color balance is often subtly wrong.

3. Amsonia tabernaemontana (eastern bluestar)


This member of the dogbane family (Apocynaceae) is a true piedmont native.  I grew it from seed obtained from the NC Botanical Garden seed distribution program.  The flowers are a very pale blue.

4. Calanthe tricarinata (monkey orchid)


C. tricarinata finally bloomed, so now I can add it as an update to the Woodland Orchids post.  The flower of this species supposedly resembles a monkey.  I can’t see it.

5. Paphiopedilum niveum


In the greenhouse, a miniature slipper orchid.  Paphiopedilum niveum grows on limestone in Thailand and peninsular Malaysia.  It is the easiest of the Brachypetalum paphs to grow, being much less susceptible to rot than its relatives like P. bellatulum or P. godefroyae.  My plant was purchased as a young seedling from the old Oak Hill Gardens nursery in Chicago, and it has been producing its cute little flowers every May or June since 2003.

6. Encyclia fowliei


Encyclia fowliei is a pretty little epiphytic orchid from Bahia, Brazil which was described as recently as 1989.  I have two plants: one purchased for beaucoup d’argent when the species was difficult to find in cultivation, and a second purchased for pocket change a few years later when H & R Nurseries in Hawaii started selling vast quantities of seedlings.

The Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday.  Head over there to see his Six and find links to the blogs of other participants.