Great Things in Tiny Packages: What’s Blooming in the Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection

January 8, 2015 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

Orchids make up one of the largest (or THE largest, depending on whom you ask) plant families with over 25,000 species. In such a large family, there is bound to be incredible variety in size, shape and color.  This week the small blooms caught my eye more than anything else. It is astonishing to see such vivid coloration and detail in flowers that are no bigger than my thumbnail!

Stenosarcos Vanguard is a stunning hybrid of the two Latin American species Stenorrhynchos albidomaculatum and Sarcoglottis acaulis. This terrestrial beauty has uniquely variegated leaves and its tall, red inflorescences boast numerous small blooms that are just begging for a closer look.

Stenosarcos Vanguard

Stenosarcos Vanguard

The flowers of Vanda aurantiaca are even smaller than those of the Stenosarcos, but no less impressive. The shocking yellow-orange flowers pack quite a visual punch bundled together on racemose inflorescences, one of which you can see below.

Vanda Aurantiaca

One of the most striking blooms that caught my attention this week foreshadows an explosion of color. The  tiny purple flower seen here comes from Isabelia pulchella, a miniature epiphytic species with long, dangling rhizomes. Pseudobulbs grow spaced along the rhizome and each supports exactly one grassy leaf and a single-flowered inflorescence. This orchid will sport hundreds of these purple gems when the rest of the plant bursts into bloom.

Isabelia pulchella

Isabelia pulchella

There is always something blooming in the Smithsonian Gardens Orchid Collection. Stay connected with us to see more plants from the collection that will amaze you with their diversity!

-Julie R., Living Collections Specialist

Entry filed under: Collections, Orchids. Tags: , .

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