Friday, August 21, 2009

King Orchid

Dendrobium speciosum subsp. hillii
(Dendrobium tarberi, Thelychiton tarberi)

These popular orchids are flowering all around the district at present, with many to be seen in Toowoomba gardens, typically planted in the hollow centres of old tree stumps. The sturdy stems (pseudobulbs) are usually about 40cm long, and at this time of year the plants put out magnificent drooping spikes of as many as a hundred small, creamy yellow, and very fragrant flowers.
There are about half a dozen subspecies of Dendrobium speciosum. Some of them get called “Rock Lily” or “Rock Orchid”. The name never took off in our part of Queensland, as our local subspecies prefers to live on trees, often in rather high, exposed situations. A favourite habitat in the wild is on the Hoop pines which tower above the canopy of our local dry rainforests and scrubs.
This plant is so easy to grow that it could fairly be described as a “beginner’s orchid”. All it needs is a well-drained, sheltered site (where it gets direct sunlight for part of the day), and a bit of water while it’s getting established. After that, it will survive neglect, drought, and all but the worst bushfires.
It likes being watered, of course, but plants which find themselves in damp sites have the rather weird habit of sending their little fresh roots straight upwards, seeking drier air.

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