Monday, January 14, 2013

Chiloschista usneoides

The whole plant.  It's about the size of my palm.
Flowers the size of my little finger's
Hey Everyone,

I've been very excited this week because for the first time in the year and a half I've had this beauty, it's the first time I've seen a flower... Not that it hasn't tried to before.

I bought this roughly a year and a half ago when Woolf Orchidculture visited my Society to do a talk... I can't remember what it was about, but I do remember that I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Well, I'd wanted one of these weird leafless orchids for quite some time, and I knew they grew them, so when they came to visit I decided to send them an email to see if they could bring one with them... Which they did.

Well, the first year I had this it attempted to grow a spike 3 times, within a couple of months, attempting to grow a total of 4 spikes.  However, due to it's unfortunate habit of flowering during the middle of school exams I forgot to keep the water up to it so it sadly lost all those spikes.  Then this year it did the same thing, and has thus far attempted to flower twice.  First was during exam block, and as per usual I was too busy with school to keep up to the watering regime.  But luckily this year it decided to give it one last try for the year, which thankfully occurred after my very cool purchase of an electronic watering system, so thankfully it had enough water to continue producing the spike.  However, for some reason nature didn't want me to have too much fun, so I got attached by caterpillars which among several plants having the growth points being out of them, they ate the buds on my Chilo's spikes.  But alas, like all good stories, one bud survived, and here it is.

Now, on with the scientificy stuff:

Chiloschista is a genus of roughly 20 species.  I say roughly because, as many orchid growers know, species are in an almost constant state of either consolidation, or separation, depending on new discoveries of either earlier publications of a species, or newly found information concerning the DNA of a plant.  Chiloschista were formerly classed as being members of the Sarchochilus genus, however due to their leafless habit, and several other defining characteristic, they have been given their own genus.  Chiloschista are found from Sri Lanka, to Nepal, and all the way east to northern, tropical, Australia.  There has been extensive research, or so it seems, into the photosynthetic roots of the genus. I only say this because there seems to be quite a lot of internet articles about Chiloschista usneoides in particular, and the titles include mumbo jumbo such as "Photosynthetic Carbon Assimilation", and I can assure you I'll definitely be giving these articles a read... but once I get back into school mode, for now I'm in holiday mode and my brain is in peaceful relaxation.

Surprisingly flat blooms,
except for the "lip"
Chiloschista usneoides in particular, is the type specimen of the genus, and is found in the "western Himalayas, eastern Himalayas, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Thailand at elevations of 1600 to 1700 meters"(IOSPE, n.d.).  As I mentioned earlier it is a leafless, or to be more correct, almost leafless orchid.  I say that because it spends about 9-11 months of the year without any leaves at all, but around this time of year with the increase in temperature and water it produces some tiny, itty, bitty leaves, which you can see forming in one of my photos.  This plant is a miniature epiphyte, lythophyte and apparently the flowers are fragrant, however I can't seem to smell anything.  This may be due to it being night time though, as many orchids can have nocturnal, diurnal or constant fragrances in their blooms, normally depending upon how they are pollinated in the wild.

Happy Gardening Everyone,

P.S.  The shade house is almost done, I just have to do a couple of finishing touches and the rest of the plants can move in, HOORAY!


  1. Hey Michael, awesome blog. Really liked it, and will try to follow. It's so nice to see a young fellow like you doing a blog, gardening and so much scientific stuff. Do you want to become a botanist when you grow up? All the Best -- a mathematician professor cum gardener cum blogger :-)

    1. Hey KL, sorry it's taken me so loong to reply, school has been really busy. I'm glad you like the blog, I try to keep it interesting, informative, and light hearted :)

      I'm tossing up between botanist, horticulturist, zoologist, and probably some other stuff..... though Ill probably try be all of them :) hehehe

  2. Outstanding plant and flowers, Michael, and thanks for the correction on the Cockatoo. I really blew that one. Congratulations on your new shade house.


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