Haaa! You’re wrong!!!
This isn’t you’re usual post, where someone is trying to source flask of a certain, well known little creature from Mexico, where she’s extinct by now. This time I can report: I’ve done it.
In case you wonder what’s going on by now, puzzled by all these pictures, which noone did expect… let me talk you through the back-story.
When I started breeding orchids with a purpose, and had sort of an idea about the subject, I was 12 or 13 years old. I’m 40 these days, and Mexipedium xerophyticum was on my radar, ever since I remember. I can remember the first stories of a “tiny Sipper Orchid” having been fond in a remote part of Mexico, I remember the years in-between not owning a plant, and I do recall when finally I got my first piece from Popow Orchids, back in the day when we were all young and hopeful.
Pretty much 2 years into killing my first few Phals and Cattleyas I decided, that I wanted more out of the hobby, possibly make orchids into a living, but certainly wanting to get my own flasking done. And thus it went, I flooded my mum’s kitchen more often than I care to admit, I bred mould, and more mould, and eventually got to the point, where I could produce decent flasks, in a kitchen environment. Cattleyas, Disas, Phalaenopsis…Masdevallias as well as some Draculas. You name it.
With time came my first laminar air-flow bench and I got more and more professional about things. A few years later I did start getting into Paphiopedilum (sowing), which was sort of the holy grail of sowing orchids, and to some extend it still is today. With success came higher targets. I did get to sow Paph. rothschildianum as well as sanderianum very!!! early on, and things worked fine. When I started to consider Mexipedium flasking though, I reached a frustrating peak, which I couldn’t work out how to do. The first issue is getting a plant pollinated, and to get it, to make a pod. This is major trouble to start with.
You try and pollinate a xerophyticum flower, and produce a Mexipedium pod, I dare you!
Over years, indeed many years I did try. I had other people try. I tried some more. At the end of it: I couldn’t even produce a pod! Around 10 years ago a friend in the U.K. did ring me late at night, telling me about a pod, he had on one of his plants. 2 days later I drove down to Cornwall, hoping to harvest a pod of what had become my breeder’s nemesis. We did harvest the pod. Cutting it open in the bench it turned out to be empty. I was gutted. I was at that point basically excepting, that I couldn’t do it myself, and given that I’ve never ever seen or heard about others having been successful….. I turned my back on the species.
Pretty much 2 years ago, I was given another “pod” by a friend. It came right out of nowhere, it looked like what I’d seen before, and I really didn’t think this was going to happen. Back home and in the lab I took the (by then dry) pod into the bench to cut it open…. And the rest is history, as they say. It was obvious, and very apparent, that I had struck pure gold. The capsule (as far as capsules go) was less than a millimetre thick, and it was full of black seeds. At that point I did stop breathing for about 2 hours. I’ll not bore you to tears with what it took to get the seeds to germinate, or the growing hieps of cells to form organs… Given that I was working within utter alien territory, I did take the long and considered approach; I lost quite a few seedlings on the way, since it turns out that Mexipedium invitro is very different from anything I had dealt with before, but I can honestly say: I now know what to do. With my next pod I’ll be a complete pro, and even if these pictures below don’t look like my best work… I’ve gotten to the point where I needed to let some of the seedling die off, in order to get the others to their beautiful best. It’s been a steep learning curve, and yes these flasks could look even better if I had known earlier, what I know about Mexipedium sowing right now. At the end of the day a nearly 30 year long dream has come true for me. Today is the day therefore, where I’ll be sending these flasks off to my good friend who produced the pod for me. It basically goes to show: Even if we sometimes feel we need to give up on an idea for lack of ability…. The idea might have other plan(t)s that still involve us.
A few total, and detail shots:
This one Pound coin is for scale, so everyone has an idea about the stunning size, these plants have reached in flask:
Finally: I did keep the pod! I had a feeling it would be good to show, how tiny a pod we’re talking about. Now compare this pod to what’s been happening invitro….
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