Orchids from cloud forests - Restrepia.
How I became introduced to the Restrepia orchid.
Another successful orchid show was coming to a close and there were only a few plants left on the sales table. An elder member noticed me loitering near the sales table, pointed to a weird looking Restrepia elegans orchid and nodded towards me hinting that it would be good in my collection.
I looked at the thick, leathery, erect leaved Restrepia elegans (which I had overlooked due to its weird little flowers and two tatty leaves), which incidentally was in flower with this cute spotted bloom.... and thought she was mad. Each leaf stem has a series of sheathed, papery bracts covering it which contrasts with the elliptical leaves. So, I studied this orchid for a few minutes wondering why a grower actually had it in his collection.
The man behind the sales table informed me that it was cool growing, although not the best specimen.....hence I became a victim of the Restrepia's ability to intrigue me and found myself paying a lower price after a bit of haggling! Two of the leaves had been eaten or damaged so it should have been a giveaway.....in my opinion.
Distribution of Restrepia orchids
Restrepia orchids are found growing in the cool, moist cloud forests high in the Andean regions of Colombia, Ecuador, northward to Central America and into Southern Mexico.
There are around 50 species of this cloud orchid which have been discovered growing on mossy trees and rocks and also on leaf litter in the cloud forests.
Flowers of the Restrepia orchid
Restrepia has an unusual trait in that its violin shaped flower has the two lower sepals fused together to form the lip. The upper sepal has a translucent appearance and takes on the shape of an insect. Is this cool or what!
Check out the photo!
The Restrepia orchids adorns the Andean cloud forests with colourful whites, yellows, reds and purples, and long, thin lateral petals which have club shaped tips. A single flower is produced under each leaf with the majority of the flowers of Restrepia orchids being spotted or striped.
Here's the exciting part.... Restrepia can flower all year (this is very appealing to an orchid lover!), and although the flowers are short lived another flower grows continually from the same place at the base of the under side of the leaf.
Discovery of Restrepia
A Columbian botanist named Jose Restrepo was honoured by having the Restrepia Orchid named after him, when he discovered Restrepia elegans in Venezuela around 1846.
As Restrepia grows in cool, moist conditions with plenty of air movement in the wild, we aim to do the same by growing Restrepia orchids in cool to intermediate greenhouses or shadehouses with 50% shading. Restrepia orchids are hardy plants and do seem to tolerate temperature extremes, but not too often.
Restrepia orchids grow in the moist cloud forests of the Andes where they receive no direct full sun, enjoying plenty of air movement and high humidity, thus these conditions need to be replicated (within reason and taking costs into consideration!).
Restrepia orchids need to be placed in a greenhouse or shade-house where they will not get direct full sunlight. When the leaves develop a reddish - purplish colour, they are thriving in their optimum light level. I can assume that my Restrepia elegans is enjoying the top shelf of my shelter because it continually flowers.
Restrepia can be allowed to dry out slightly between watering. Spraying the surface of the compost with water each day helps keep the compost moist and to aid the humidity.
If Restrepia orchids are grown in sphagnum moss it is very beneficial and easy to immerse the plant in a bucket of water once a week.
Restrepia orchids need good humidity so it is a good idea to sit the plant pot on a saucer or tray of pebbles with water in it, so the plants are not sitting directly in the water. The ideal humidity for Restrepia orchids should be 70 - 80%, taking into account that they are cloud forest orchids. It is wise to spray the surface of the compost with water each day to aid the humidity and help keep the environment cool.
A wide choice of mixes are available but always remember that the roots need to be moist. A good compost mix includes coconut husk chips, fine bark, perlite and sphagnum moss.
I have mine in sphagnum moss at the moment to keep it moist, but not saturated so that the roots rot. Restrepia orchids can also be grown on tree ferns although this will create more watering work for the grower.
As Restrepia seem to have no rest period they can be fed all year round at fortnightly intervals by adding a balanced fertiliser dissolved or diluted in the water. During summer, however, Restrepia can be fed each week to keep the Restrepia flowering for lengthy periods.
Intermediate Restrepia orchids
The following species favour intermediate temperature conditions:
In concluding I hope you have found this species of cloud orchid of interest. The cloud orchids are a fascinating orchid in all aspects.
You may notice one in a friends collection or at a show and you can say that you have heard of Restrepia orchids before.
More sites to visit
- Orchids types - Google Search - Restrepia
Selection of many photos of Restrepia orchids in flower.