Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stanhopea shuttleworthii

Stanhopea shuttleworthii buds glowing
in the morning sun, 2 days from opening.
Waiting and watching Stanhopea inflorescences mature and come into bloom is part of the fun of growing this genus.  It is especially satisfying to witness the first flowering of a plant for the year.  This orchid surprised me by producing five inflorescences this year and the first one was way ahead of the rest.  This orchid was in bloom for a good 3 weeks, though with only one or two inflorescences at a time open.  Once Stanhopeas grow large enough, they are able to provide you with weeks of bloom even thought the individual flowers may last 3-5 days.

Stanhopea shuttleworthii with 5 inflorescences
This Stanhopea is native to Colombia and is found in foothills around 3000 feet (1000 m) in elevation. This species is listed as a warm grower, but seems to do just fine outside here in southern California.  It is provided a little extra shelter of a roof overhang in winter, so the plant is grown a bit warmer than some of my other species. I have this growing on the north-east side of the house and it only gets approximately 1 hour of direct sun in the summer.  The leaves are 15 - 17 inches (38.1 - 43.2 cm) long, 3.4 - 3.8 inches (8.6 - 9.5 cm) wide, and narrowly lanceolate in shape. The flowers are 5.6 inches (14.3 cm) wide.

Stanhopea shuttleworthii hypochile detail
This form has deep golden yellow sepals and petals with several reddish-brown large spots. The petals have large deep red eye spots at the base. The hypochile is primarily yellow with dark blood red eyespots on the side with what appears to be blood red smears on the inside of the hypochile.  The horns and epichile are primarily white with small red spots on the inside of the horns and top of the epichile.  There are forms that have lighter yellow sepals and petals with lighter reddish spots.
The fragrance of S. shuttleworthii is difficult to describe.  Some people say it smells like mothballs, others say it smells like an expensive perfume.  The fragrance shifts a bit, first smelling similar to vanilla when the flowers first open, later a combination of sweet mothballs and a light lemon scent.  After the flower has been open for a few hours, the fragrance reminds me of lemon meringue.  Most people find the fragrance rather pleasing and a good combination.
One of my first attempts to capture Stanhopeas flowering. The difficulty is making sure you are up early enough to have the equipment running in order to capture all the movements of the buds opening ;-)

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