Friday, May 7, 2010

Bellatulum Bean

Sabine is looking after two Paph. bellatulum species I bought from the Orchid Inn Ltd.  I've sent Bean to do a little research on the Paphiopedilum subgenus Brachypetalum.  Now that I own three of them I should probably learn about their care and maintenance.

But before Bean lets loose with the technical details, can we talk about the look of these incredible plants?  The blots of red and rust convey a lot of dramatic effect for such a small flower.  It's almost like the white flowers were caught in a bloody crime scene.  If you stare at the petals long enough, though, you can discern movement and rhythm in how Nature (and the hybridizing foresight of Sam Tsui) arranged the dots and splashes on the flower.  The petals look a little like elephant ears, and the photos I've seen of award-winning bellatulums show a dorsal sepal that's cupped and rounded, filling out a circle with the petals and creating the effect of a satellite TV dish.  The first one I bought was a complex hybrid involving a plant with the grex name 'Space Opera,' which perfectly captures the beautiful strangeness of these little dudes.

Frowine (in Miniature Orchids) cautions to keep bellatulums drier than most paphs.  They can be killed by too much water and growing conditions that are too warm.  Therefore, air movement is especially crucial for these species.  One grower on the Slipper Orchid Forum warns of crown rot.

The folks at echo this concern about air flow and give detailed cultural advice.  They write that a "happy brachy" has somewhat succulent leaves and fat roots.  They grow some of theirs under fluorescent lights about 3" below the tubes, causing their plants to dry out in 3-4 days.  The Orchid Web states that they can grow well 6" under the lights. 

We're going to make sure they're getting enough air movement with our current fan set-up.  Then we will sit back and enjoy the elephant ears, satellite dish, crime scene, space opera, or whatever other image comes to mind gazing at these bellatulum beauties.

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