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Stanhopea connata 'Orange Sherbet'  AM/AOS x self.

Stanhopea connata 'Orange
Sherbet' AM/AOS x self.

STANHOPEA insignis 'DARK JUNGLE' x self.

JUNGLE' x self.


STANHOPEA napoensis

STANHOPEA nigripes 'NICE'.

STANHOPEA nigripes

 The Stanhopeinae of Tropical Orchid Farm
by Jeffrey Parker (2004-05-01)

We have always tried to bring uncommon, bizarre and interesting orchid species (and appreciation of them) to the market. This year is no exception. For the first time I used the Internet to check if other companies are offering the same species as we are. I was very surprised to learn that many of our species simply are not currently offered elsewhere, or are offered sporadically by only one or two other companies.

I noticed that this year we have a number of new, sensational and rarely offered members of the Stanhopea subtribe. Stanhopeas, Coryanthes, Kegeliella, Gongora, Acineta, and Paphinia all are represented in our new catalog.

A new customer called the other day and said that she would like to try some Stanhopeas, but members of her local society had told her to stay away from them, because the flowers are short-lived. Well, yes..... flowers from this group typically last from 3 days to a week, but what is overlooked is that nature compensates for this by allowing frequent spiking throughout a "season". In fact, during my lifetime with orchids, I have observed that almost all orchid species with "short-lived" flowers initiate far more flushes of blooms than the species with long-lasting flowers. Makes sense, doesn't it? (Sobralia is another great example of a genus which more than makes up for its one or two day flowers with its extended blooming period and breathtaking beauty). I give the example of a well-grown Stanhopea oculata which was naturalized on a Hawaiian native loulu palm in my photographer's garden. The blooming period from the day of the first flower opening to the day that the last spike was finished spanned more than 60 days! So, there were beautiful flowers and a strong scent of vanilla to be enjoyed by the owner and her visitors for over two months.

Because the inflorescences, in most cases, come out of the bottom of the plant and grow straight down, there is a need to hang the plants up and grow them in a basket or on a mount. Yes, many of these species will bloom out over the edge of a pot sitting on a bench, but this does not maximize the impact of the show and limits the number of spikes produced.

The bizarre flowers in this subtribe have evolved that way not only to amaze you and me, but to facilitate pollination by specific euglossine bee species. In many of these species "pollination involves falling through the flower or into the lip, sliding down the column, or other unusual mechanisms." (Dressler, 1993) Charles Darwin said that the various contrivances and adaptations of orchids "vastly transcend those which the most fertile imagination of the world's most imaginative man could dream up with unlimited time at his disposal!"

Some of these species do attain large size eventually and to the extent that this is seen as a problem by some folks, we are always keeping an eye out for smaller species, and this year we are pleased to be able to offer for the first time Kegeliella atropilosa - which I like to think of as a "miniature Stanhopea". Another diminutive species which puts on a big show is Gongora armeniaca, with its profusion of golden flowers which remind me of little birds or ducks. (Our friend Felix, a Mixtec Indian from Oaxaca who assists in our nursery, thought that they resemble "little angels").

Members of the subtribe are generally easy to grow, and in many cases exhibit rapid growth. Coryanthes for example are said to be the fastest growing orchids - some growing in Nature from seed to blooming in one year! (Some researchers believe this is a defense mechanism against threats such as frequent forest fires). In general, plants in Stanhopeinae prefer bright DIFFUSED light. Water in copious quantities is important to produce strong pseudobulbs and healthy flowerings. Although watering is automated in our nursery, I do hand-water the species in our "botanical garden". Man, do I ever pour on the water! Every night with a full blast hose - and you should see the pseudobulbs on my Stanhopea tigrina. (Everyone's conditions are different, so only change your own culture methods with caution). "Dry roots lead to leaf-tip dieback, or a browning of the leaf-tip." (AOS Education Committee) Another plus is that pests don't really seem to be much of a problem with the Stanhopeinae. The species with fairly soft leaves (Coryanthes) can be attacked by caterpillars which are sometimes very tiny - so watch for the first signs of this and remove by hand or spray non-toxic Dipel (Bacillus thurengensis).

So, in the larger sense, why should we grow these unusual plants? Well, we are rapidly approaching the day when humans will only be able to view these amazing wonders of Nature in the form presented by pixels and digital dots and dashes. Should we preserve the actual pieces of our Natural Heritage for all to enjoy and appreciate?

You decide - the choice is yours.

Copyright 2004 All Rights Reserved.
A Sense of Place 
A Visit to Panama 
News From Tropical Orchid Farm 
Building a Species Collection 
 [ complete list ] 

STANHOPEA platyceras.

STANHOPEA platyceras.

STANHOPEA reichenbachiana.


STANHOPEA shuttleworthii 'GREEN' x self.

STANHOPEA shuttleworthii
'GREEN' x self.

Stanhopea tigrina 'Glory of Mexico,' AM/AOS x self.

Stanhopea tigrina 'Glory
of Mexico,' AM/AOS x
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