Freeloading orchid relies on mushrooms above and below ground

Plants are well known for their deceptive ways, orchids being the worst of the bunch

The non-photosynthesizing orchid species Gastrodia pubilabiata mimics rotting mushrooms or fermented fruit, and is pollinated by fruit flies who mistakenly lay their eggs in its flowers. If there are rotting mushrooms near the orchid, its pollination rate increases. As well as using mushrooms to attract insect pollinators, G. pubilabiata survives by absorbing nutrients from the fungal hyphae of mushrooms. This is the first time a plant has been discovered to depend on mushrooms both above and below ground. more…

Read the paper:
Achlorophyllous orchid can utilize fungi not only for nutritional demands but also pollinator attraction


Zygopetalums are usually heavily scented. They are considered an easy growing plant and many hybrids are on the market.

Water enough to keep the roots from drying but don’t let it sit in water.

Moderate light, no direct sun, but bright indirect sun.

I plant all my orchids in semi-hydro now. Use a shallow glass container, fill it with pebbles ( usually clay ) and keep just a little water in the bottom of the container.

Zygon: means yoked petal

Native to South American ( Venezuela, Peru, Brazil ) rain forests about half way up the mountains, usually in recently disturbed locations that have an increase in light.

The flowers are often green with purple splotches. The lip usually has white stripes.The pseudobulbs tends to be rounder than most

I’ve found references as far back as 1839 on hybridization and care of Zygopetalums.


Researchers have identified the gene related to the greenish flower mutation in the Habenaria orchid

Chysis bractescens

I potted this in semi-hydro ( glass pot, clay pellets, about an inch of water well below the root level ) I’ve had fantastic luck with the other orchids potted this way.

I’ve read Chysis bractescens should not dry completely out, but let them get drier and cooler in the winter or they won’t bloom in the spring. This one is two years old. I’ve found they need to be kept wet, semi hydro has worked out very well, I’d plant them in sphagnum otherwise. I think bark will be too dry. I keep it wetter than any of my other orchids.

Like all orchids they need a good dose of fertilizer each watering.

No direct sunlight, keep above 60’F. (mine gets some direct sun very early in the morning, dappled light the rest of the morning, house lighting only after that. )

Fragrant at night, spring bloomer with fat canes, self fertilizing, typically grown in a basket. When well cared for can reach 2′ in height.

The leaves should get much longer as it grows 15″-16″ in length, the flower stem to about half that length. The flowers grow from the base of the plant, the leaves near the top of the canes. Older leaves drop off over the winter, sometimes only the roots survive the winter.

Blooms every spring, a few cold nights (55’F) are absolutely necessary to get it going. Newest bud, not yet open, appeared the first week of March. Last year I kept it inside on a windowsill. That’s cold enough for the phals and dends to bloom but not for this plant. This year I put it out in the greenhouse where the nights are much colder and I have two flower spikes.

Central American native first described in 1840. Popular Victorian orchid, I’m seeing it listed for sale more often.

It is currently a protected species. Grows on trees in wet, thick, forest or on rocks ~ 350′-2000′.

Introduced to growers in 1840 by George Baker

Chrysis is Greek for melting. The flowers self fertilize and tend to melt into a clump after blooming

Dendrobium spectabile

Like many house plants, these were no where, then all of a sudden everywhere. These just arrived a few weeks ago, so I may change this as I have some time to experiment with them.

These arrived at about 18″, the stalks will reach 36″ when it is full grown. There are no flowers or spikes but they are large enough to bloom. It may be next year before I see flowers. You’ll need a drafty windowsill to give the the 15′ temperature drop they need to go into blooming mode.

These are from Papa New Guinea, and like most island tropicals they grow in a very narrow temperature range, 70’F-80’F. I’d keep them inside, even in the summer.

I recently shifted all my orchids to a semi-hydro ( clay pellets ), they’ve all done extremely well so these are planted that way as well. They are in 6″ glass cubes, the bottom third is pellets, the plant roots are spread around the top 2/3 and clay pellets have been worked in between and around the roots. They were extremely root bound when they arrived in their 4″ pots.

Water and fertilize less in the winter, this is supposed to help encourage blooming.

I’ve read they need quite a bit more sunlight than other dendrobiums and most other orchids. I’ve placed them in a southwest facing window with very little shading ( in Houston ). We’ll see how it goes. They’ve survived the first few weeks but it’s been cloudy. This window is bright enough to burn other orchid plants but not Venus Fly traps or other carnivorous swamp plants.

These turned out to bloom as easily as other dendrobiums. Put them on a window sill so they’ll get the winter temperature drop and give them just a tiny bit more light than other dendrobiums. They will burn if given too much light. The flowers are heavily scented.

Psychopsis ( Oncidium Mendenhall)

I fell in love with these years ago, and it’s been a very long time since I’ve had one. Now I have four. The first two were lost in shipping by the PostOffice. The seller sent replacements, and three weeks later the originals turned up. The roots were dry but the plants were otherwise healthy. A few hours of soaking in water with rooting hormone and fertilizer, then a week planted in sphagnum moss, and they were as good as the two that hadn’t gotten lost. These are tough plants that clearly don’t mind a bit of neglect.

These orchids want low to medium light, I’m told they’ll bloom in light as dim as you use for your phalaenopsis, but cattleya light is better. The leaves on these are almost a dark solid green, with more light the leaves will get a brown speckling. I’m still experimenting to see how much light they can take you can see the newer leaves beginning to get some color as I increase the light. I put these in a AeroGrow Ultra LED garden, they are in a tray, planted in clay pellets (semi-hydro) and thriving.

Some growers say to let them dry a bit between waterings, others say never let them dry. After the PostOffice experiment I’m leaning towards letting them get a bit dry between waterings. Make sure the leaves and pseudobulbs stay firm, roots should be green to white, the greener the better.

I’ve taken to keeping all my orchids in clear glass containers so I can keep an eye on the roots. If you use bark and or sphagnum moss make sure there is no water sitting in the bottom of the container and use a shallow, wide container. If you use clay pellets ( semi-hydro ) plant the orchid so the roots are above the bottom third of the container and leave water in the bottom third of the container. I have these planted in semi-hydro, it hasn’t been very long but so far they are doing extremely well.

Each spike bears flowers one at a time, after the flower dies the spike will grow a bit longer, then a new flower will bloom on it. Flower spikes can reach 5′ in height. Flowers can be a couple inches or as large as 6″. Flowers will last about a month.

I find these to be very easy to grow, they bloom almost year round only stopping when the house air gets dry in the winter. They are easily propagated by division

Temperatures should be between 50’F and 90’F, 60′-80F is best.

The higher the humidity the better.

Psychopsis Mendenhall is a hybrid between Psychopsis Butterfly and papilio.

Psyche is Greek for butterfly, opsis for like

Psycopsis were first introduced to The Royal Horticulture Society in 1823 but Sir Ralph Woodford, Governor of Trinidad