Monday, January 25, 2016

The Ghost Orchid's Islander Cousin

The genus Dendrophylax, which includes the Florida Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii), is rather widespread throughout the Caribbean.  One easier-to-grow, but slightly less impressive, plant in this genus is Dendrophylax funalis, hailing from Jamaica.  The plants consist of a rather conspicuous, leafless growing stem with a number of gray-green roots which radiate out from this stem. Flowering stems also emerge from this growing stem, typically in the winter into spring.

The flowers bear some similarity to their Floridian cousin, lacking the long tails on the lip, bearing a shorter spur, and having medium-green tepals. Flower size is slightly smaller as well. However, just like D. lindenii, these flowers are fragrant at night, having a fragrance somewhat a mix of freshly sliced apples and fresh mushrooms.

This species is more forgiving than other members of its genus, requiring culture similar to that of many Vanda orchids - moderate water, occasional fertilizer, and medium-bright light. It is also more available in cultivation than D. lindenii, so it is a good way to get one's feet wet in leafless orchid culture before trying the harder-to-grow Floridian species.

Here is a photo of a recent flower on my cultivated Dendrophylax funalis:

Dendrophylax funalis

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