Pop Goes the Orchid

George proudly announced to me a couple of weeks ago that an orchid he has been nurturing in the garden sent out two flower spikes for the first time. Meet Stanhopea stevensonii, an epiphytic (plants that grow on other plants rather than rooting in soil) species orchid native to Colombia.

Stanhopea stevensoniiA friend said they look like a ballerina’s feet, and I agree! They’re quite large, about 3 and half inches. You can tell from this photo that the flower spikes grow downward out of the bottom of the basket. For that reason, this wikipedia article explains, they’re sometimes called upside-down orchids.

Here’s a closeup.

Stanhopea stevensonii flowerThen we waited … and waited …  George was afraid they weren’t going to open, and I had to hold him back from peeling one apart! Patience paid off, and nearly a week later bloom day arrived. It was worth the wait! The flowers are spectacular.

Stanhopea stevensonii orchid in bloom

We weren’t there when they opened, so we didn’t get to hear the “pop” that can occur when the flower emerges.

Stanhopea stevensonii orchid in bloom

This is a view from beneath. The flowers are very fragrant, but I was having trouble pinning down what the scent was. This great passage from Robert Lauri’s wonderful blog, Stanhopea Culture, says it well:  “The fragrance of this Stanhopea is difficult to describe and smells sweet but rather chemical-like.  The fragrance is similar to sweet grass with trace amounts of fresh pine needles. Some individuals have described the fragrance as being similar to moth balls, but I have not detected this fragrance in fresh flowers.”

Stanhopea stevensonii orchid in bloom

According to an article on a German orchid website, the strong scent helps attract the pollinator, a male euglossine bee, to the flower because it doesn’t bloom for long.

Stanhopea stevensonii orchid in bloom

Here’s a closeup of the flower from the side. And finally, the proud orchid whisperer with his newly emerged babies:

George and his Stanhopea orchids

What spectacular flowers are you growing in your garden?

2 comments on “Pop Goes the Orchid

  1. Judy Rand says:

    Wow, Stanhopea is gorgeous! I loved seeing your photos of the flower spikes as they bloomed. Almost as exciting as being there to see (and smell) it!

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