This enchanting creeping miniature was described by Tom Reeve from a collection at 2600 metres in Enga Province, Papua New Guinea in 1979. It is a mat-forming epiphyte with globose pseudobulbs. The paired leaves are often tinged maroon in high light. The flowers arise in clusters of up to 25 from leafless pseudobulbs and are ice-blue-green but sometimes cream or violet tinged. They can last for several months. A real gem.
This miniature beauty from the Blue Mountains of Jamaica was described by Rudolph Schlechter although it had previously appeared as Laelia and Epidendrum. Ideal for the small greenhouse in cool conditions, it is space-saving and colourful. The plant is compact with single, leathery leaves which have a reddish tinge in bright light. The flowers are a stunning scarlet-orange and up to 5 cm. wide and with a purple anther cap. It can be grown in pots or mounted on twigs as it tends to grow in nature.
This species was the first in the Section Oxyglossum to be described when, in 1821, Caspar Georg Carl Reinwardt, a Prussian born Dutch botanist made a collecting trip to the north Molluccas. He founded the Botanical Garden at Bogor whence much of our early knowledge of Indonesian orchids emanated. Among the species bearing his name are the Javan Trogon, an Indonesian flying frog, the Blackcap Babbler and the range-footed scrubfowl. He was professor at the University of Leiden from 1823-45 and died, aged 80 in 1854.
Your editor first saw this miniscule species growing on moss-covered twigs at Mount Hagen in New Guinea. But Dendrobium subacaule is not confined to New Guinea as it is also found in the Solomon Islands (Guadalcanal). It is one of the smallest species in the section; only Dendrobium delicatulum and Dendrobium putnamii are smaller, but it is quite startling to find. The plants are typically only an inch (2.5 cm.) high and so are mostly hidden in the mossy substrate. But when the red flowers appear it fits Canon Cruttwell’s description of ‘Twigs Aflame’. They are not always red: purplish-red, orange and even yellow specimens have been found. All flowers have the characteristic orange-red lip.
Culturally it presents problems. Because of its small size, it needs special care. Seedlings are about 1 cm. high and have good roots. They can be started off in sphagnum until growth is apparent and then either potted in fine bark compost or tied to a mossy twig. They should not be allowed to dry out. As the species is found up to 2500 metres (over 8000 ft), it is cool growing and conditions that suit Sophronitis will suit this too. Wet and windy! When the flowers appear, they can last for up to six months!