Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ahhhhh!! Vanilla orchids and Bromeliads!

Our vanilla orchid (Yes! vanilla is an orchid!!) is starting to bloom again!!! Beautiful! There is no fragrance to this flower that we can detect. Each individual flower lasts only one day. Then they wither and fall off the vine if they are not pollinated.

Horticulture staff enjoy attempting to pollinate this flower when possible! We do not have the natural pollinators in the Conservatory so pollination must be done by staff! See the pollen on the left side of the photo? It is the triangle shaped yellow bundle in this photo. It is removed from the flower with a small piece of bamboo and then placed on the sticky surface of the flower and pressed in place. The flower is only receptive to pollinating for about 4 hours in the early to late morning!

When a pollination attempt is successful, the beginnings of a "vanilla bean" can be seen! Look closely at this photo and you can see the old whithered flower still attached and the green swollen "bean" attached to it. It can take about 9 months to get a ripe "bean" after a successful pollination.

The vanilla vine has at least 8 flower bud clusters at this time! The flowers open about one flower every third day. This warm spring has been great for this vine in the North House!

And the bromeliads in the display in the Palm Dome are very happy too!

Bromeliads for the display are rotated through the display as needed. Staff and volunteers groom and replace plants at least weekly.

The bromeliads in Tropical Encounters started out as divisions of plants from the collection in the greenhouses. They were then mounted on the fallen tree in Tropical Encounters with fishing line. The company that created the fallen tree attached coated wire mesh to the top of the branches. Sphagnum moss was stuffed under the wire mesh and then the bromeliads were tied on to the mesh with the fishing line.

These have been growing on the fallen tree for just a few years!

The bromeliad collection is grown in the production greenhouses at the Conservatory. At this time, there are three benches dedicated to the approximately 400 pots of bromeliads . The bromeliads are watered about every 5-7 days during the spring and summer and less often during the winter/darker months. They are fed about once a month when they are actively growing.

Bromeliads are also grown in high light areas with plenty of airflow!

Watch the ever changing display of bromeliad plants in the Palm Dome as they are moved from the growing area to the display in the Palm Dome!