Orchid resilience

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Sometimes, through my own mistakes, I am amazed at how resilient orchids really are. One month ago, I was sitting a 24 hr alert shift at Davis-Monthan AFB and spent my waiting time sitting around to pot out compots that had been neglected for too long (ex. one phrag compot took me 3 hrs to sort out the roots on the 25 phrags in it; 6 of the plants were in flower and 5 plants actually had 2-3 growths each). I finished the day with 6 10x20" trays filled with paphs & phrags in individual pots.

Last week, I opened my pickup truck and was shocked when I saw one tray of paphs in the backseat that I had forgotten to remove (having a newborn around tends to interrupt the normal flow of things). Temps were ranging in the 40's at night, 70/80's during the day, and the inner truck temperature of my dark grey pickup ranged between 100-120 F. All the plants were extremely limp and faded light green.

I quickly watered them, put them in the greenhouse, and figured they had no chance at all. After 9 days, 2 plants have gone to the afterlife, but the rest are starting to perk up. Black sunburn spots and brown leaf edges are now appearing and all the plants look really rough, but they are starting to grow back upright and the leaves are taking on a deeper green color. The jury is still out on their long term survival, but I'm even amazed they survived this far and are showing signs of life. This particular tray contained kolopakingii and primulinum species.

A friend of mine last year had an evaporative cooler malfunction and lost almost 50% of his paphs and phrags due to the heat. He had been caring for several of my compots and gave them back to me with lots of heat damage, but those seedlings actually recovered really well once they went into a shaded portion of the greenhouse.

While sometimes I lose plants that I try to take really good care of, I'm still amazed by how difficult it is to kill one accidentally if the damage is caught in time and the extreme cultural change is only for a short duration. It does appear that paphs can recover from heat damage much better than cold. My paphs did fine this year, but a few times this winter (until I fixed the greenhouse heating problem) the greenhouse went down into the high 40's at night, low 60's during the day, and half my phals rotted off their leaves.

So, have hope. Sometimes even the plants you think have no chance of survival based on all the cultural rules you've learned might actually surprise you with their determination to live.


some call me brian
Jun 7, 2006
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Cape Cod
i've noticed mine have an ability to survive some periods of prolonged drought...


I know what you mean...
I left two of my Phragmipedium besseae and my kovachii in someone else's care for two weeks recently. Apparently soon after I left they were moved to en empty dry room in the greenhouse and forgotten about!! When I came to pick them up the place was 90+ degrees and the plants appeared not to have been watered for more than a week.

I almost completely lost it. The next couple days were an extreme rehydration campaign, and I was very nervous. Turns out though that one of the besseaes, which was blooming when I left, only lost one flower. The second flower developed with some jagged edges, but it opened ok, despite the attempted plantslaughter.


This is my survivor!

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