Spiders and the Manhattan Orchid Society
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  #1  
Old 05-28-2010, 01:33 PM
Kenyon Kenyon is offline
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Spiders and the Manhattan Orchid Society
Default Spiders and the Manhattan Orchid Society

Spiders are my new love; I like to see a dozen or more climbing up a spine, some as large as eight inches, mottled in browns and maroons, their chartreuse tepals catching the light at all angles. And me, I am caught in their web, fascinated by them as a cat with a mouse. Each bud that opens I draw and paint from different vistas, noting the subtle changes in colour as they open. What starts off a leafy green ends up a yellowish chartreuse. Lips fade from bismuth yellow to white. And then of course they then go the way of all flesh, and I am left with withered mementos of my romance; love blooms, love dies.

Of course it adds to the allure the fact that some of the Brassias come from Bolivia; my obsession at the moment. Many of their cousins in the odontoglossum-oncidium complex come from there, quite a few endemic. This country has about 1500 known species, and it is expected they will discover that many more, mainly in los Yungas.

At the April meeting of the Manhattan Orchid Society Jim Freeman gave us a talk on this very complex, which is very incestuous in the hands of the breeders. My own spider is a hybrid, a Fangtastic, so it does not grow the flowers in typical back-to-back line up as in Brassia, nor do they open all at once; they open starting at the bottom, on average one a day, and twist around the stem. They are also noticeably different in size. Jim held forth on this much, noting the Brassadas and Brassidiums, with images of flowers with Brassia tepals and Miltonia labia, with touches of Oncidium here and there. All quite phantasmagorical but for me a bit over the top.

A previous Brassia hybrid I had was Pacific Heights, the tepals of which were much shorter than typical Brassia. Beatiful flower with a bright yellow labium. It now has a new owner, as I put it up for raffle at the May meeting of the MOS. Miniature orchids were the feature then, all grown by Albert Tamashausky, who keeps his plants under flourescent lights six feet under ground in a cave that was once used as a beer storage in the pre-Revolutionary days. It was then known as the Swartz Brewery, located in Oxford New Jersey. From beer to orchids! What a change. But what doesn't change much is the temperature, and his mastery of maintaining constant conditions has given him a great assortment of the very best in miniature orchids. Like me, and unlike so many enthusiasts, he tends to keep only naturally occuring species, not the usual hybrids. Naturally, I asked which were from Bolivia, and naturally, this was an awkward question. Masdevallia, Platystele (which now includes the world's smalled orchid, discovered in 2009 in Bolivia by Dr. Lou Jost) and Pleurothallis all come to mind, and he has some of these, but neither of us knew off the top of our heads which exactly were native to Bolivia. There is not a lot of literature on hand about Bolivian orchids, but I might here give a link to a list of them as compiled by Vasquez who wrote a book on them in 2003 - www.senckenberg.de/odes/03-04.pdf

My hunt for Bolivian orchids in the canyons of Manhattan took me to several shops, including the famous Zeze near the UN, where I saw two-stemmed Brassias at the brisk price of $300. I heard he had a four-stemmer, that went to a worthy home in the Trump Boulevard uptown. Downtown, I found a sympathetic ear at Plant House on 29th Street, whose proprietor, Mike Milan, is a formidable but amiable presence in the horticultural world of Gotham. He is famous for renting to movie sets, his atelier stuffed with large palms and cacti; walking through it makes one feel they are on the set of an Indiana Jones movie. Come to think of it, Mike looks a bit like a character from just such a movie himself, his head covered in one of those straw brimmed hats you wear when looking for lost arcs and fighting nazis looking for the same.

When I told I was looking for spider orchids, he put me in touch with a number of growers in Florida, where he keeps a greenhouse, but to no avail; they told me spiders liked the cold that they could not provide, and Hawaii growers never returned my calls.

But finally I tracked some down from a grower who does the rarer items, and so the Plant House is now supplying its upscale clients with these exotics and I have my own to ponder and paint. They are surprisingly easy to take care of, just pot them in a coarse bark medium which allows the water to drip down and mist them frequently. This month has been cloudy mostly, so I keep them in a west window in Manhattan. The grower says it can tolerate between 40-100 degress Farenheit.

In their native Bolivia, these temperatures can be found in many areas. The country has a rich bio-diverity, ranging from freezing mountaintops to desert to chaco to Amazon basin swamp lands. It is the next hot spot for orchid lovers, as it has been neglected by the famous expeditions in the 19th century; politics and the Andes kept many a collector from getting in. But today, it is open to exploration, and there is an annual orchid fest in the town of Concepcion, where the town flower is Cattleya nobilior. Lovely flower that, as are all of that genus, so blessed with bright cheery shades of lavender, purple, pink and yellow, but personally, I much prefer the spiders.

Last edited by Kenyon; 06-02-2010 at 03:54 PM.. Reason: additions
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  #2  
Old 05-28-2010, 04:49 PM
susiep susiep is offline
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Thank you, Kenyon! Very nice article. Oh, and welcome to Orchid Board!
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  #3  
Old 05-28-2010, 05:01 PM
WhiteRabbit WhiteRabbit is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by susiep View Post
Thank you, Kenyon! Very nice article. Oh, and welcome to Orchid Board!
ditto that!
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  #4  
Old 05-29-2010, 01:34 AM
stefpix stefpix is offline
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Spiders and the Manhattan Orchid Society Male
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Brassia-Oncidium Golden Gamine Orchid Plant- BS- NICE!! - eBay (item 320539141056 end time Jun-02-10 18:42:14 PDT)
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  #5  
Old 05-29-2010, 07:14 PM
susiep susiep is offline
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Kenyon, I love these "Spider" orchids, too. I have several but they are not the easiest for me to grow here in south Florida. I love the way many of the hybrids have been named in honor of that most famous of spiders, Shelob.

I have one called Miltassia Charles M Fitch 'Dark Monarch' AM/AOS that is very spidery. Also, Mtssa Shelob 'Webmaster' and Mtssa Charles M Fitch 'Izumi'.

Here are a couple pics but I am not sure what they are.
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Spiders and the Manhattan Orchid Society-img_1952-jpg   Spiders and the Manhattan Orchid Society-img_1902-jpg  
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  #6  
Old 05-31-2010, 02:51 PM
Kenyon Kenyon is offline
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Thanks for those Susie...these seem to be cooler growing plants. B caudata is the only one naturally occurring in Florida or anywhere in the US.
I can't be 100% on this, but I think the Fangtastics I have are slightly scented, definitely a polleny scent that is generic, but some, the top ones, opened later, seem to have a bit of honeysuckle.
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