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My Articles About Orchids
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   I wanted to find an extra special orchid to tell you about this month, so I looked all around and decided on one of the most unusual orchids in my garden.
   I chose the extraordinary Stanhopeas, which is one of the commonly known “bucket orchids”. These are some of the most fascinating orchids in the orchid kingdom. Sir William Hooker established the genus in 1829.
   The reasons these orchids are so strange are their unique flowers and the way they are pollinated. The flowers are huge and can range up to 14 cm long.
   They are produced on a pendulant spike extending downward from the plant, flying free in the air. The flowers resemble some very strange looking large “bugs” with their large weird shapes and one may think they could have came from another world.
   The pendulant spike can reach 25 cm length and contain up to ten flowers. The flowers have a very strong fragrance, with some very spicy, vanilla-like smell.

   Although the flowers are short-lived, however, old, well established specimens may produce several inflorescences every year.   These marvels of the orchid family naturally range from Mexico to Brazil and are really very easy to cultivate in your collections if you can provide their needs.
   Another very strange fact about these orchids is the way they are pollinated. Male euglossine bees pollinate the large flowers. Two species of euglossine bees, Euglossa meriana and Euglossa cordata, have been known as the "orchid bees." They are attracted to the flowers by the pungent perfume that the flowers produce. These flowers are incredible works of nature in their forms with complex structures for pollination.
   These orchids have created a mechanism by which they attract the bees with their scent and then trap and release them. They have "paths" that guide the insects to the very spot that is needed for pollination. The way these flowers are made the bee is attracted to the flowers, and stops for a nibble of nectar the flower produces.
   The bee usually ends up falling into the long beak-like column. The only way for the bee to escape is to climb along a narrow path located just below the anther and the stigma of the column. When the bee finally escapes he has the pollinia attached firmly to his back right between his wings by the male anther. The dumb bee then visits another flower and starts the routine all over again only this time when he escapes he unknowingly transfers the pollinia he has been carrying around with him to the female stigma thus pollinating the flower. The flowers are short-lived which may be why they are so intricate in detail to insure pollination.
   There are many species in this genus and the hybridizers love to experiment with them creating many new hybrids such as Stangora ( Gongora x Stanhopea) and Stanhocycnis ( Polycycnis x Stanhopea.) My favorites are Stanhopea embreei, Stanhopea impressa, Stanhopea grandiflora, and Stanhopea oculata and Stanhopea hernanezii.   
   Light requirements of the Stanhopeas needs to be bright but diffused so the tender leaves are not burnt. (2,500 to 3,000 foot-candles) They prefer temperatures in the ranges of 52 oF (11 oC) to 60 oF (16 oC) during the night and up to 75 oF (24 oC) during the day. They must have cool night temperatures to initiate the flower formation.
   Never let your Stanhopeas dry out to prevent the tip of the leaf to brown and die. Water less in the winter. The humidity should be kept between 50% to 80% with good air movement.
   Fertilizer should be used at regular intervals during the growing season, which occurs in the early part of the year for many species.
   One of the most important things to remember is the inflorescence is pendulant so you must use containers that will allow the spike to grow through the potting medium and out the bottom of the container.
   Hanging baskets with 1" to 2" spacing are excellent. Use a potting mix that will remain moist like Sphagnum moss, tree fern fiber or coconut chips. You can also make your own mix using medium fir bark, charcoal chips and perlite. Soak the mix before potting so the roots will not dry out during the potting process.
   Lining the basket with newspaper will help keep your medium in place until the roots of the plant grow. You may need to repot ever two or three years if your plant is a vigorous grower, repot right after blooming and when you notice new growth because as they get crowded they tend to bloom less.
   These orchids can grow to be quite large so when planing your growing area for them leave plenty of room for the long wide leaves. If you can supply the cool nights and have plenty of room these special "bucket orchids" are not hard to grow.
  The first time you see one of these fantastic orchids in bloom, you will never forget the sight.   You might wish to read more about these fantastic orchids here.