Spectacular summer orchids bring the magic of the rainforest to the Aquarium.
This summer there are some amazing new orchids flowering in the Bristol Aquarium orchid displays including unusual species from Brazil, Costa Rica and Borneo.
Did you know that there are over 33,000 orchid species? That’s just one plant family – in comparison, there are between 28,000-36,000 estimated species of fish on the planet!
Perhaps the most dramatic plant is Prosthechea brassavolae, a large orchid native to the wet rainforests of Costa Rica. Its unique flowers are fragrant at night and are adapted for pollination by large hovering moths such as hawkmoths.
The closely related Central American orchid Prosthechea radiata is a common orchid which grows amongst Guatemala’s Mayan ruins. It is very fragrant during the day to attract tropical bees, and the species gets its name from the radiating stripes on the lip.
Cattleya loddigessii is a flamboyant orchid species from the Atlantic coastal forest of Brazil. Unfortunately it is now very rare in the wild as most of its original habitat has been deforested. The Writhlington Orchid Project are helping to reduce the loss of wild species, by working with local communities to develop sustainable approaches to orchid habitats.
Another extraordinary orchid is Coelogyne pulverula with its long pendulous flower spike with alternate flowers in brown and cream. It is native to the rainforests of Borneo and South East Asia where it grows on the top of tall trees with its long flower spikes hanging from the canopy.
Not all the orchids on display are large and dramatic – the tiny Maxillaria sophronitis is harder to spot. It is native to the cloud forests of Colombia and Venezuela where its small scarlet flowers are pollinated by humming birds.
The Ecuadorian species, Stelis nexipous, makes up for having tiny flowers by producing masses of them on upright spikes. Unusually the flowers open green and slowly turn dark red.
Horticulturalist, Anna Lim is developing the orchid displays alongside students from Writhlington School and the Mendip Studio School. All the orchids have been raised by students at the Schools who have won international acclaim for their conservation and education work with communities in Sarawak, Rwanda and the Himalayas.
Teacher Simon Pugh-Jones MBE, noted: “Bristol Aquarium has an impressive commitment to education and conservation, and their innovative orchid displays celebrate the diversity of this remarkable family of plants, and their relationships with tropical ecosystems.”