Extremely Unusual Plants at the Orchtoberfest
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!
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