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Excerpts from

VOLUME 84, NO. 3—July, August, September 2020


Dracula Reserve:
Orchid Conservation Neighbors Helping Neighbors

1 page, 1 photo

Challenges faced getting the food to the village.

The Dracula Reserve is a private conservation area in northern Ecuador, just at the border with Colombia. Currently, it consists of three large parts, each of them separated by a distance of about 10 km., located at different elevations. The Reserve was founded on the initiative of the Botanic Garden of the University of Basel in 2013/14. The Ecuadorian foundation, EcoMinga, owns it. There are several sources of funding: the Basel Botanical Garden, individual donors, the Rainforest Trust, and the Orchid Conservation Alliance.

By mid-2019, 19 forest plots with a total area of 1’136 ha (11.36 km²) were acquired from private ownership. The purchase of additional forest areas with a surface area of 750 ha (7.5 km²) is in progress.

The lowest elevation of the Reserve is 900 meters (2,625 feet), where premontane forests are found. The various parts of the reserve extend up to 2,300 meters (7,546 feet), where cloud forests dominate. The cloud forests start at about 1,500 meters and contain many epiphytes, creating an immense wealth of orchids.

The number of animal and plant species per unit area found on the western slope of the Andes is approximately five times larger than in most parts of the temperate zone. Because of a wide range of altitude and a diversity of habitats, the Dracula Reserve contains a great potential for biological field research, which is currently being carried out here by several national and foreign institutions. New species of orchids and frogs are regularly discovered.

Please see the article from the Orchid Digest issue July, August, September 2019 (Volume 83, No. 3) for an article on the Orchids from the Dracula Reserve in Ecuador by Lou Jost. If you can’t find your issue from a year ago and would like to find out about the orchids of the Dracula Reserve, please go to the Orchid Digest website: http://www.orchiddigest.com/.

Return to the mountain of the dead (Ambondrombe, Madagascar) in search of Cynorkis ambondrombensis boiteau
Denis Vaslet, Chantal and Jean-Michel Hervouet, Hasimbola Rajoelina Rakotobe
20 pages, 38 photos

Cynorkis ambondrombensis
©Denis Vaslet


The original article was published in L’Orchidophile 224 Vol. 51. The article was updated and additional images added for this publication. Thanks to the authors and the editor of L’Orchidophile, David Lafarge, for permission to share this article with the Orchid Digest.

Several Société Française d’Orchidophilie (SFO) members have been traveling around Madagascar for almost twenty years in search of its orchids. Many species have been observed, some new to science, others not well known and photo-graphed for the first time. Hervouet (2018) gives an exhaustive list of observations made between 2000 and 2017, i.e., 370 species out of the approximately 930 found on the Red Island to date. Research is no longer done at random, but with specific objectives, to find symbolic or mysterious species. One of them, Cynorkis ambondrombensis, had been keeping us going for several years. It was discovered in 1941 by Pierre Boiteau, founder and director of the Tsimbazaza Botanical Garden in Antananarivo. The only known specimen, originating from the Ambondrombe massif, in the south-east of Madagascar, appears in the herbarium of the Paris National Museum of Natural History under the number 4920, with the mention “Cynorchis (Imerinorchis) ambondrombensis sp. nov., Ambondrombe, lichen forest, 1,800 m.” The author (Boiteau, 1942) describes in particular a perfect diamond-shaped lip, with a finely fimbriated anterior edge and ends his description with the following comment: “This species does not come close to any of the known species of this group. From an ornamental point of view, it would be one of the most beautiful Madagascan species.” This description is enough to excite our curiosity.

Several search missions have been undertaken, under the aegis of the SFO, to search for Cynorkis ambondrombensis and study the flora of the mysterious mountain range, covered with primary tropical forests called “Mountain of the Dead,” reputed to shelter the spirits of the dead of the Betsileo ethnic group. The first expedition, in early March 2009 (Guérin & Hervouet, 2011a, 2011b), paved the way for climbing the massif, which is taboo because of the beliefs of the Betsileo. Guérin & Hervouet described, for the first time, the compulsory rituals of the Betsileo and gave details of the path of the ascent of the massif that culminates at 1936 m. They discovered two Benthamia species, initially collected by Pierre Boiteau; the description was published by Hervouet et al. (2014). A second visit, made in January 2010, appears to have been too early in the season to have a chance to capture the elusive Cynorkis ambondrom-bensis (Guérin & Hervouet 2013). The third expedition, undertaken in March 2011, turned out to be very rich in discoveries (Hervouet & Guérin 2013), but the mythical Cynorkis ambondrombensis was still not uncovered...

The Role of Rain in Orchid Pollination
Carol Siegel
7 pages, 10 photos

Liparis loeselii
©Robin Chittenden

I live in Las Vegas, and I do not own an umbrella. Rain is so rare here in the desert that it is a topic of conversation and a cause for excitement. It is not like that everywhere. In some parts of the world, it rains for hours a day and months on end, and rain is measured in tens of meters and not in millimeters. Meteorologists speak of “rainy seasons” and “wet seasons,” and rainfall is heavy and constant for large parts of the year. For orchids, that is generally a good thing, and they thirstily suck up the rainwater to sustain their life processes.

It can pose a problem for orchid pollination, proving a detriment to both flowers and pollinators. Torrential rain can mechanically damage both flowers and pollen. Rain can swell pollen grains causing them to rupture; a ruptured grain can no longer grow a pollen tube even if deposited on a stigma. Rain can dilute nectar rewards and discourage discriminating pollinators. It routinely reduces the number and variety of insect pollinators, and relatively few insects, mainly solitary bees, are active during a continuous rain; even then, there are just a few of those. In a Mediterranean winter, only two to four species of bees will be flying during rain compared to 100–200 of them in dry weather.

Nature is the great innovator. She has cleverly developed strategies like pendulous flowers with flower rims that do not get wet, narrow flower tubes, and vigorous vegetative reproduction all to help deal with the destructive power of rain. Surprisingly, some plants even use rain in their pollination strategies. Abiotic (not promoted by living creatures) pollination by rain splashes, a condition known as “ombrophily,” has been proposed over the years. Ombrophily is a rain-mediated form of self-pollination that serves as reproductive insurance in adverse conditions when pollinators are infrequent or rare. In 1950, Hagerup described rain pollination in several species in windswept and rainy conditions on the Faroe Islands. Flowers that were open during rain, filled with water, and pollen were transported to the stigmas resulting in self-pollination. However, in subsequent years, several of his cases were thought to be false or open to other interpretation...

Sixty-Fourth Paph Guild
Tim Culbertson
11 pages, 15 photos

Tim Culbertson’s display of paphs and old prints.
©Tim Culbertson

Paph. King’s Forest ‘Goldfield’ HCC/AOS
©Tim Culbertson

This Year’s 64th Paph Guild was held in a new venue, the lovely Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. The event played host to 50 enthusiasts with two days of fantastic presentations. I was excited to participate in selling plants as well as putting in a display. With my good friend Norito Hasegawa in tow, we made the short journey north. The van was full of lots of plants for sale, as well as what turned out to be a very memorable display for me.

This year, five growers entered displays with nearly 100 plants (or pictures of them). Unfortunately, many of the growers from Santa Barbara were not able to attend, and so we missed displays from some perennial favorites.

Paph Guild organizer Harold Koopowitz brought a wonderful selection of complex hybrids. It included Paphiopedilum Shirokane ‘Big White’ AM/AOS, a nice example of the cross of White Queen × Optimus Prime; it is one of the last great white hybrids from the now-defunct Orchid Zone (OZ). Harold also had some seedlings from Orchids Royale in Santa Barbara that must be amongst the only places in California to see large numbers of complex paph seedlings anymore. I learned this year that although OZ sold many of these Paphiopedilum Shirokane plants, the hybrid was originally made in Japan, with most of the seedlings purchased by OZ. Harold also brought Paph. Mem. Glenn Gardner ‘Big as Can Be’ HCC/AOS (Shun-Fa Golden × rothschildianum), a terrific giant green named after a great guy who I miss tremendously. Glenn Gardner was the head grower at Matsui Orchid Nursery, and I have fond memories of roaming through their benches with him trying to find the best and greatest complexes. When I was at Matsui once, Glenn came up with a fantastic tray of new, green Paph. Maudiae type plants that he had registered as Paph. Dire Wolf (Hsinying Dragon × Pat Rowland). All 12 of the plants in the tray were beautiful, awardable, and enormous, and he told me I could buy any of them for Matsui’s typical paphiopedilum pot-plant price, which at the time was eight dollars. Yes, eight dollars! I said I did not grow Maudiaes and didn’t want any of them. Oops! Miss you, Glenn...

A New Color Forma for Vanda curvifolia
Harold Koopowitz
3 pages, 6 photos

Vanda curvifolia f. franksmithiana plant habit.
©Harold Koopowitz

The miniature members of the vanda alliance, both species and hybrids, are being actively collected, appreciated, and experiencing increased popularity in hobby collections. It follows, therefore, that a new, spectacularly colored forma of a long-known, popular, small species should generate excitement.

Vanda curvifolia (Lindl.) Gardner 2012 is recognized by many under the more familiar name Ascocentrum curvifolium. It is an important species belonging to the smaller vanda alliance. The typical color for this species is a rich orange color. A yellow form of the species was described as long ago as 1871 as Saccolabium curvifolium var. luteum by B. S. Williams, but other color forms were not known. Vanda curvifolium is easily separated from the closely related orange Vanda miniata by the former’s leaves that curve downwards. These two species have played essential roles in bringing orange and red colors into the vanda hybrids. Here, I describe a new pinkish-purple color form of Vanda curvifolia!...