Sunday, March 05, 2006

Philippine Species Highlight: Vanda luzonica Loher ex Rolfe 1915

Philippine Species Highlight: Vanda luzonica Loher ex Rolfe 1915

Written by [Philippine Orchid Review] Carla Cubero Quiano
Friday, 01 February 2002
March 17 1991 was a very unusual day for people living here in Central Luzon. On the afternoon of the day, a cloud of white ash however over the whole metropolis and blanketed everything from rooftops from trees, cars and roads. People who dared venture out during those days suffered itching and stinging sensations in their eyes, skin and scalps not to mention aggravated pulmonary problem.
This was the day that Mt. Pinatubo erupted. In its wake it cause a lot of damage to properties and left so many people, specially the Aetas of Zambales, homeless. For an orchid enthusiasts like me it means the destruction of an orchid sanctuary particularly the natural habitat of the Vanda luzonica.
Vanda luzonica, like the plant featured on our front cover has always been known to come from the Mountain of Zambales. Although it was reportedly been found in Bulacan, Tarlac and Rizal. I have yet to meet of an orchid collector who has acquired one of those places. If this in indeed true then we can still console ourselves with the though that there are still other places in the Philippines where we can find Vanda luzonica growing in the wild.
Vanda luzonica is epiphytic and can grow quite large – reaching about one meter in height. Leaves are 2 ranked, dark green, sometimes twisted, about 25-40 centimeters long and 2-3 centimeters wide. The inflorescence is racemose, axillary’s and about 12 –16 inches long. The followers are loosely space along the spike and are waxy. The sepals and petals are white with purple plash pink spots and marking near the tips. The petals are often twisted. The lips are magenta purple with 6 dark purple lines and a white spur. It flowers during the month of January, April, November and December.
At the POS Annual Orchid and Garden Show last Feb. 2001, a Vanda luzonica romped-off with a major award. ( see photo Front Cover ) Sheila Johnson, who exhibited this particular specimen, shares with this writer some tips and insights on her plant.
According to Sheila, her mom who loves collecting Philippine orchid species, purchase this particular plant back in 1977 from one of her customers. It was never given any special treatment since it grew along side the imported orchid hybrids that they sell in their nursery. She said that all their orchids whether “ native “ or “ imported “ received the same attention.
They follow a weekly regimen of feeding with a balance fertilizer followed by a bloom booster and supplement it with rooting hormones. Because their nursery is in hot and sunny Pampanga, they usually put one layer of the net during the summer and water as much as three times a day depending on how hot or windy it becomes.
During the rainy season they applied fungicide on a weekly basis as a prevented measures.
Sheila also observed that some of their newly acquired Philippine orchid species do not flower for a couple of seasons. She advises that you have to be patient and continue to care for them, Though it may take a while for Philippine orchid species to acclimatize and get use to their new environment, they will one day just surprise you with beautiful blooms.
(suitable for Vanda luzonica )
Light: Strap-leafed Vandas need about 50% shade and 50% light.
Water: They need relatively humid environments to thrive and grow well. Since strap-leafed Vandas don’t have bulbs to store water for long periods of time and since most of them are planted on basket with all of their roots exposed, they need to be misted several times daily depending on how hot or windy it is. This is to prevent that plant from drying out completely
Fertilizer: Alternately apply a balance fertilizer and a bloom buster on a weekly basis. For more frequent application it is best to dilute a recommend dosage by half or ever lesser. Remember to water before applying fertilizer so as not to bum the tender and sensitive roots.
Flowering: One or more flower spikes are produce at a time from leaf axils on the upper part of the stem. Once the spikes appear they grow rapidly. Frequent watering should be maintained to prevent the tip of the growing spike from shriveling prematurely. A spike will grow towards the light so it is best to position the plant so that the light leads the spike sideways or out of the channel of the leaf.
Vegetative Propagation: Vegetative propagation in strap-leafed Vanda’s though top cuttings may be quiet slow since most of them do not grow fast nor produce roots on the upper part of the stem. When doing a top cut from a strap-leafed Vanda you should make sure that the portion to be cut has at least 2 to 3 active roots to support the new growth. On the other hand, the lower remaining part should at least have 3 to 4 sets of leaves in order to produce Kiekis. A leafless stump will not produce offshoots. Older plants will quiet often produces side shoots from the base of the stem, which can be separated when they have their own roots.
Problems: Vandas are quiet robust and will stand regular spraying of fungicides and insecticides. They are quiet susceptible to root and crown rot and are often infected by fungus ( Guinardia ) that leads to unsightly black steaks along the leaves. The roots are rather slow growing, and if attacked by cockroaches or snails, root growth can be slow.


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