One Orchid, Two Flowers

Dimorphorchis lowiiThe topic today is a beautiful orchid Dimorphorchis lowii, which is native to the jungles of Borneo. As if its long pendulous chain of flowers is not eye-catching enough, there are actually two types of flowers competing for viewer’s attention. A few female flowers near the top are bright yellow wtih red spots, while all other male flowers below have cream background almost completely covered with maroon spots.

Female FlowerOne web page mentioned that in 1883, a particularly well grown specimen was displayed by one French Baron’s gardener. It was 8 feet tall with an 8 feet leafspan. A total of 11 flower spikes draped down around the plant, averaging 9 feet in length.

This story reminded me of some of the most floriferous orchids I saw while I was attending regular meeting of my local Malihini Orchid Society. A lot of these orchids were Cattleya hybrids that had over 50 pseudobulbs in big wide pots with over 30 flowers all open at the same time. They were all grown using a special fertilizer called Jerry’s Grow. Mr Jerry Rodder is a member of that society. Being an inventive chemist, he discovered that a little methanol would work wonders with orchid growth. He used to have a website that sells his patented fertilizer, but that site seems to be down. I guess an alternative is to feed a little beer to plants, and the gardener can treat him/herself with any extra.

Male FlowerAs far as growing Dimorphorchis lowii, I have not had much problem since acquiring this one in 2000. I give it regular watering and fertilizer during the warm months, stop fertilizing and hold back on watering during winter. Repotting usually happens once a year. My specimen first started blooming in 2004. Since then it has been blooming once every two years. The flowers are waxy and long-lasting, slightly fragrant too. In 2004, I cut the flower spike about one month after it started blooming and took it to the Horticulture Department at Foothill College, where I was studying. A fellow student from Brazil quickly made an impromptu necklace/lei with that spike. I think it will make a good gift for my wife this time.

2 thoughts on “One Orchid, Two Flowers

  1. Dear Daxin, where do you find the space to grow all these plants? Are they in your greenhouse? Here in Singapore a lot of people seem to grow orchids from bits of wood suspended from their apartments’ screen window frames, or tied to the coconut tree trunks, but I know the architecture is different where you live – not to mention the ambient moisture and temperature levels!

    This Dimorphocis Iowii is yet another fascinating orchid – they really seem to know no limits to form or territory. The Singapore Botanic Gardens are home to a truly immense variety of orchids and create new ones all the time to honor famous people – from Laura Bush to Jackie Chan. I hope you can come and help me learn more about these tropical species.

    Who’s the biggest commercial orchid grower in northern California?

  2. Dear Lara, I do keep most of my orchids in my small greenhouse. Not sure how I will handle this one if it gets to 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Singapore is orchid heaven and a lot of orchids are supposed to grow like you described in the tropical rain forest. They are epiphytes living on trees, getting all the water and nutrient they need from rain and washed down leaf litter.

    Singapore Botanical Garden is one of the best in the world. Their palm collection is also very spectacular with many rare ones such as the double coconut from Seychelles.

    The largest commercial orchid grower in Northern CA is probably Rod McLellan company. They used to have a large nursery in South San Francisco. They sold that property to developers and sold themselves to Taiwan Sugar Company, or Taisuco, which expanded its business from sugar canes to Phalaenopsis orchids many years ago and is now a world class orchid producer. I believe Rod McLellan company is still keeping its name and they have a small store in San Mateo. Their growing ground is in Watsonville with rows after rows of shiny greenhouses. Big growers like Taisuco put their emphasis on volume and quantity. It is probably hard to find a Dimorphorchis lowii from them.