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What’s Blooming: Oncidium Orchid

By Staff | May 4, 2012

First impression: Striking, exotic, five petals with a sixth larger iconic orchid-lobed lip in hues of yellows and browns. Wow, such dramatic fade in and outs of colorations and patterns adorn the frilly lipped petal. The oblong leaves are soft green and folded at the base forming a v shape, The base consists of pseudo bulbs that are flattened and clumped and attached to the trunks of our many Mahogany Trees by silver hair like roots. I can only marvel at its tenacity to hang on its host tree! I am drawn to the many tiny dancing flowers on extended slender stalks. You can see this gorgeous orchid fluttering in full bloom at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Oncidium Orchids can easily be confused with approximately 420 species of air and land plants. Our sphacelatum, is a show stopper, when blooming there is no passing it by without a closer look! It has oodles of teeny tiny glowing flowers suspended by slender stalks, which gives them an excuse to dance at any chance they get. The 5 buttery yellow and latte brown petals are tiny, slender, and ruffled. Of course the 6th petal is the preverbal orchid nectar guide for the pollinators. It is super fancy, marked with an over sized bib apron shape landing pad in lemon yellow and dappled browns. And yes, it’s cupped and ruffled with orchid drama thru and thru. This flower shape reminds us of a lady with a ruffled skirt, hence the nickname dancing lady orchid. Each flower stalk is laden with 50 or more flowers, I easily count 300 plus on our mature orchid. If you’re lucky, you can smell that faint sweet scent, which I find strongest early morning and dusk. After blooming, remove spent blooms to be ready for the next profusion of blossoms. Its fruits or seed purses form on the ends of stalks and contain hundreds of itty bitsy seeds, which end up blowing in the wind. The dark green leaves are linear, long cane like and really are not noticeable until the flowers emerge and start to show off. The grey cane bases of the leaves remind me of bamboo and attached by the roots. A healthy strong orchid will have numerous silvery colored roots encircling and securing to its host plant. Orchids are Epiphytes which means they sit on top of their selected companion. An orchid obtains moisture and run off nutrients from their host and in no way harms them. Our stars parents were naturally occurring epiphytes in the tropics of Central America, but non-native to our region. Orchid, just the name and your mind can conjure up a flower picture that’s fanciful and magical. We have had success tying ours up in the crotch of trees with stretchy gardeners tape. Once they adhere the tape comes off and viola a treasure that blooms sparkle each year. Add some to your garden oasis, you can discover a hidden treasure just hanging around year after year.

Pros: Likes filtered sun to shade – Easy to maintain Flowers are unique, exotic and fanciful – Salt tolerant May be inspired to take up dancing Takes up no room in the garden – Long lived blooming period – Everyone needs at least one Blooming brings in the bees No care needed – Lovely soft fragrance

Cons: Trim spent blooms Not noticeable when non blooming Non native plant – Need a host plant with lots of canopy – Blooming brings in the bees It’s hard to say no to any Orchid!

Conclusion: No need for music, leave your iPods at home. Come see our hundreds of tiny blossoms that are dancing day and night — one-two-three.one-two-three. So many flowers so little time in our eye catching tropical garden.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!