Orchids: Bifrenaria harrisoniae

Growing orchids in Europe a hundred years ago, when new species were being discovered and introduced into cultivation, was restricted only to those who owned a greenhouse. Nowadays, however, they are gradually being commonly grown as house plants. In fact, growing orchids and other epiphytes has become the fashion in western Europe since the beginning of the seventies, and many people now specialize in this branch of horticulture. A contributing factor, apart from the purely aesthetic aspect, has undoubtedly been the changes in housing and in the development of equipment, particularly indoor glasshouses and glass plant-cases that make it possible to grow even the most demanding species. Nevertheless, interest will continue to be focused on those plants that thrive and produce flowers under ordinary conditions, without any special equipment.

Bifrenaria harrisoniae is just such a house plant. Though it has a relatively pronounced period of rest it will be quite satisfied with just limited watering and a cooler spot during this time and is otherwise quite undemanding. In spring and summer it should be given as much light and heat as possible, plenty of air and water — conditions that practically every grower can provide.

The species is native to Brazil, like most of the 30 or so known species of this genus. It grows as an epiphyte in the wild, but in cultivation it also does very well in various containers in a light epiphyte mixture. Bifrenaria is a fairly robust plant with quadrangular pseudo-bulbs about 8 cm (3 in) high from which rise firm leaves approximately 30 cm (1 ft) long and 12 cm (43/4 in) wide. Short scapes, usually two, each about 5 cm (2 in) long and bearing 1 to 3 fragrant flowers circa 8 cm (3 in) across, emerge from the base of the youngest pseudo-bulb in spring.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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