Extremely Unusual Plants at the Orchtoberfest

What do you get when you mix German Food and lots of orchids, and wrap it up in October's wonderful weather?  Orchtoberfest!  Every year EFG Orchids opens their magical greenhouses to the public so you can wander amongst their many rare and unusual tropical epiphytes.  This warranted a road trip!

Standing in for my Fiance/Best Friend on this trip was my sister Shannon!  She's not a gardener, but she had a blast looking at all the unusual plants and displays, and thought it was like "going to the zoo, but with plants!" I couldn't agree more.

Even though the orchid selection was huge, I was blown away with their variety of unusual and bizzare plants.  (It was also fun to laugh at all of the bizarre signs on the way, such as one for a barbecue restaurant with a "sexy" pig batting her eyelashes at you, beckoning you to come and eat her pork. I'm not making this up, here's the link!) 

One of Shannon's favorites was the enormous tacca, or bat plant specimen, which she likened to "huge jellyfish" floating in the air.. Once she put it that way, "bat plant" sounded a lot less poetic.  They had little starter plants for a few bucks so that anyone could try some of their own!

Isn't this container cool?  I'm ashamed to say that I can't tell what it is, though its likely some caudiciform ficus.  The selaginella planted beneath it add a great touch to this lilliputian rainforest planting, making it look like a self contained ecosystem. I can't believe I didn't seek out and buy a smaller specimen of this tree!

This "ant plant" specimen is a stunner, especially since they cut away the swollen trunk to reveal the cavities that would be inhabited by ants in its natural situation.  Its a classic case of symbiosis, with the ants protecting the plant and getting home and shelter in exchange.

Here other "ant plants" have been displayed to great effect using snail shells as mounts!  They really do look like gastropods reaching out their feet.

Fruits have formed on the spathe of this unlabeled arum, closely related to voodoo lily and corpse flower.  Don't they look like eyeballs? There was a great article at The Dirt that featured a plant with eyeballish berries, but it was too temperate for Florida.  Maybe this would be a good substitute!

Here's a scene from the back of their greenhouse, with a large variegated monstera deliciosa plant in the foreground.  This was an area that had some of the more unusual plants, including lycopodiums, oil fern, and arums like the one I mentioned earlier with the eyeballs.

This stanhopea orchid (thanks Aaerelon!) hangs down from its basket, with flowers that definitely look like... a variety of things to me:  A nose, a bird, a kite... what do you see?

My sister took a cue from the barbecue sign and "hammed" it up while I was taking a picture of an orchid, as if her face would have been an improvement on the orchid picture!  She was just happy because she bought her first nepenthes sanguinea, or "pitcher plant" and named him Green Bean.  Maybe she'll water it if she names it... who knows?

Of course, I just had to buy something too!  This neofinetia falcata is known as "Samurai Orchid" because the samurai held them in high esteem as a symbol of wealth, bravery and nobility.  They even carried them between Edo/Tokyo and their dominions, tending to their every need!  I just love picturing these battle worn samurai tending to these little orchids.  Apart from the amazing historical background, this plant is special because it is one of the cold hardiest orchids in cultivation, living through the snowy winter in its native habitat that extends up into Korea. 

There has been extensive breeding between this and many other vandaceous orchids, and the cold hardiness does in fact carry over to the hybrids, so I will be experimenting with them as soon as I can!  James Rose of Cal-Orchid in Santa Barbara sold me the plant, and he said that a lot of folks in Santa Barbara grow it outdoors too.  He even had a couple hybrids that had the cold hardy Laelia Aniceps as a parent, but I'll have to save up for next year!

For more posts,
September Table of Contents
Plant Profiles


  1. The orchid in the basket is Stanhopea. Those and plants are crazy!

  2. Aaerelon:
    Thanks! I added that and gave you credit, of course. Aren't those ant plants insane?

  3. Orchids are some kind of mystery to me, but I try to grow them. I have an "ant plant" to boost my morale - we seem to have a mutual understanding of one another. :-P

    I didn't know it had cavities like that though! Crazy!

  4. Wow. I don't know what to add. Amazing specimens. You've titled this post appropriately. How I'd love to get my hands on a bat-face or an ant-plant or a cold-hardy vanda hybrid! Love that mini-rainforest container too. I nearly bought a nepenthes the other day myself. I had told myself I'd buy one the first time I saw one, and it was indeed in my hands and on the way to the checkout. Then I looked at the price: $35!!! It remains on my wishlist.

  5. NotSoAngryRedhead:
    So ant plants are pretty easy to grow? I really wish I got one when I had the chance... maybe I'll order one from tropiflora. If you want an easy orchid, try some of the encyclias or oncidiums... anything with pseudobulbs. The bulbous bases help retain water in drought!

    They had it for 6 dollars as a small plant! The medium ones were 10. Actually there's this guy in Jacksonville who sells them for about six dollars too... maybe I'll have to ship one to ya if I find another small one like the one my sister got.

  6. Orchids scare me....they grow here with a lot of misting....

  7. Very very fascinating plants, almost bizarre! Anyone of them will certainly add some spice to your rainforest garden. Pretty Shannon seemed to have enjoyed the visit too.

  8. aloha,

    those are beautiful plants, what a show, i love that stanhopea and the ant plants in the shell are pretty darn grabbable....

  9. Rohrerbot:
    But its so much fun to mist them! In fact, I think I'll go mist them right now, since two of them are in bloom and make the whole balcony smell heavenly. There are orchids with pseudobulbs that are better for tolerating drought, and the encyclias are my favorites.

    Its so cool that you're germinating the tacca seeds! I thought of you when my sister bought the nepenthes pitcher plant.

    Autumn Belle:
    I wish I could have bought more than one! I'm practicing a lot of restraint... it was really nice to go on a trip with my little sister too.

    Pretty darn grabbable is right! I still can't believe I didn't splurge on one, but I suppose its for the best.

  10. Unusual plants indeed. I'm drawn to the bat plants. I've never seen them before.

  11. Thanks for the show. Where is this greenhouse?

  12. I want an ant plant with teh side cut open like that! How neat. Great plant show and sale!!! Glad you got to take your sister!!!

  13. What a wonderful site, great pictures and unusual plants that we don't see much of in Mn.

  14. Solitude:
    Oh by the way, I found out they're called bat plants because the fruits look JUST like roosting bats! Pretty cool, huh?

    Anon E. Mouse:
    The greenhouse is in Deland but only open to the public during the Orchtoberfest apparantly. :(

    It was really fun to take my little sis and show her why I love this gardening thing so much. I loved that ant plant too!

    Glad you visited! All of these plants pictured can also be grown as houseplants, and the ant plants are apparently pretty easy too.

  15. I think "easy to grow" depends on the gardener. Some people have a ridiculously easy time with plants I find almost impossible to keep alive, and other people have a ridiculously difficult time keeping plants alive that I find easy to grow. I think it boils down to the gardener's style of gardening and which plants mesh well with that style.

  16. I can see strings of rosary beads in the second picture. I have tried that, will need another one now I have seen those!

  17. Steve I really like those Dischidia too. Now you've made me want more when I was happy with just one. That's how collections start.

  18. Whoops, more comments!
    I know exactly what you mean... I have a really hard time with snake plant for example!

    Elephant's Eye:
    So THATS what they are! :)

    I know how that goes! I started with one bromeliad, one ginger, one epiphytic cactus, one alocasia, etc. Once you find a fun plant you just can't stop collecting the different species and varieties!


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