Welcome to the eleventh part of my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial – growing epiphytic orchids, which are endemic to Madagascar, inside the BiOrbAir terrarium. In this update, it’s a pleasure to share with you the exotic flowers of Aeranthes arachnites. But as is so often the case, alongside beauty and delight there is tragedy – whilst examining my Aerangis macrocentra specimen’s flower spike, which was being produced for what would have been this plant’s first ever flowering, I accidentally dropped the plant and broke the flower spike off! What can I say? It’s a serious disadvantage and an everyday peril to be this clumsy, the flower spike has gone, but thankfully the plant is intact, so happily this orchid lives on, to hopefully flower another day!
My reason for planting this very special terrarium with orchids that are endemic to Madagascar, was to highlight and raise awareness of the fragility of Madagascar. I wanted showcase the beauty of some of Madagascar’s plants, with the hope that by sharing these images I would encourage more love, protection, and support for Madagascar and raise awareness of endangered plants. Many of the orchids that are found growing in Madagascar are not found anywhere else on Earth, so it really is a special and unique place.
To learn more about Madagascar and the vital work in conservation and research that is being undertaken by the Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre (KMCC), a non-profit, non governmental organisation (NGO), please click here. To take a look at the Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre (KMCC) blog, please click here.
I am a huge fan of the people that work at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. The team representing this amazing organisation work to discover more about plants and fungi wherever they originate, all across our planet: they protect plant and fungi species, safeguard important areas for plants, and inform people with the valuable knowledge they have learnt about plants and fungi. We are so fortunate to have Kew. The work undertaken at Kew benefits the entire planet. If you’d like to donate and contribute to Kew’s vital plant science and conservation work, please click here.
The BiOrbAir terrarium that I have used to plant up these rare orchids, was designed by Barry Reynolds and is available from BiOrb. If you’re interested, you can find out all about the features of the BiOrAir Terrarium here.
The Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Planting List
- Aerangis citrata
- Aerangis hyaloides
- Aerangis macrocentra
- Aerangis punctata
- Aerangis sp.
- Aeranthes arachnites
- Angraecum dollii
- Angraecum equitans
- Angraecum ochraceum
You can see the full planting list for this terrarium here, where you’ll find more details about each of these orchids, together with the details of all of the nurseries and suppliers where I purchased my orchids, the mosses, and the cork for this terrarium. The Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium planting list features the details of all of the plants I have previously trialled inside this terrarium, it will always be up to date, as I will update this list with the details of all of the plants I trial in future inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium.
The orchid plants that are featured inside this terrarium were all grown in cultivation, none of these plants were taken from the wild. I would urge you never to collect or purchase orchids, or any plants that were taken from the wild. The plants you see in the wild need our love and protection, they have perfectly adapted to the site and the orientation that they are growing in, and are likely to decline if moved. It is illegal to collect these plants from the wild and attempting to do so could cause irreversible damage to the area and to the species. Please be mindful of your actions and don’t support this destructive, damaging practice.
If you’re wondering how to mount epiphytic orchids onto cork bark, please click here.
Tracking the growing conditions inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium
It’s important to note that whilst this light measurement looks low for orchids, this is mainly due to the position of the sensor – which sits in the top of the BiOrbAir, alongside the LED lights, facing downwards. So the actual light levels hitting the plants themselves is much higher.
If you’re interested to see exactly how I track the temperature, humidity, and lighting conditions inside my White Orchid Trial Terrarium, my Miniature Orchid Trial Terrarium, my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, my Orchidarium, my Rainforest Terrarium, my Access Garden Products Grow House, my trials area, and inside my home, please click here for all the details.
Miniature epiphytic orchids from Madagascar
I had expected that by the time I published this update, that I would be sharing this Aerangis citrata specimen’s third flowering inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium with you, but I miss-calculated the time this Aerangis citrata specimen needed to produce its latest round of flowers. I didn’t want to wait any longer before publishing an update, as I have taken a lot of photographs for you over the past few months and the plants have all grown and changed throughout this time. Currently as I write, this Aerangis citrata specimen has two flowering spikes that are in differing stages of development. I first spotted the older of these two flowering spikes emerging from this plant’s heart at the beginning of April 2018, so as I write in September 2018, this flower spike has been in development for five months. I first saw the beginnings of the second, more recently produced Aerangis citrata flowering stem at the beginning of July 2018, which as I write was two and a half months ago.
As this Aerangis citrata specimen currently has two flowering stems in production at the same time, the wait time between two flowerings may decrease, or it may well be as swift a process between flowerings as is possible for the plant. This plant’s next flowering is taking much longer than the plant’s previous two flowering periods, when this same Aerangis citrata specimen’s flowering spike was in production for two and a half months – from the very first sign of a flower spike emerging until the first flower opened – for the plant’s first flowering, and five months – from the first sign of a flowering spike appearing until the first flowers opened – during this same Aerangis citrata specimen’s second flowering period.
This Aerangis citrata specimen has really been flourishing inside the BiOrbAir! This plant is now looking at healthy, strong, and hydrated, this plant’s return to health and good fortune is simply due to the application of more regular hand misting, more often – I have increased the number of hand mistings that the plants growing inside this Madagascar terrarium receive, to benefit this Aerangis and some of the other Angraecoid orchids that are growing inside this terrarium.
This Aerangis citrata specimen currently has two flower spikes in different stages of production. The eldest flower spike, the longer of the two – the one that dominates the photographs above and below, was measured on the 26th July 2018, at this time the flower spike measured just over 20cm (7.8 inches) in length. As you can see, this small orchid’s inflorescences are being held on flowering spikes that are becoming increasingly longer with each flowering! This orchid’s flowering stems will be too large for many terrariums.
Aerangis citrata is an endangered orchid, to be honest as lovely as this orchid is, it’s not a plant that I want to encourage you to grow, as if the demand for plants lessened it may allow the wild plants a better chance of survival, as sadly the wild plants are often stolen to sell on to orchid growers and this is a difficult plant to propagate. If you’re still keen to grow Aerangis citrata, I’d say that it’s only worth growing this orchid if you can purchase a plant that was grown in cultivation and not taken from the wild, and you also have the space required to accommodate this plant. You’ll also need to be sure that you can provide the growing conditions this orchid needs (high humidity, intermediate to warm temperatures, and soft, filtered light) and you’re prepared to dedicate the time required to grow this plant successfully. I hope that this Aerangis citrata specimen will be able to remain where it is, comfortably growing inside the BiOrbAir, as this floriferous orchid enhances this terrarium and this plant flourishes in the conditions the BiOrbAir terrarium provides, but if this plant does become too large for this Madagascar terrarium, I have another, larger enclosure where I could move this Aerangis citrata specimen to. This Aerangis citrata specimen, like most of the orchids that are growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium is part of my National Collection of Miniature Aerangis and Angraecum species.
On the 26th August 2018, I took the photographs of this Aerangis citrata specimen that you see below. At this time, the older of this Aerangis citrata specimen’s two flower spikes measured 24cm (9.5″). While the newer flower spike measured 11cm (4.3″).
This Aerangis citrata is now enjoying much better health, the plant’s improved fortune is simply because the plants that are growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium have been hand misted more often. As this is a trial, the plants are given the same conditions and misted at the same time, although I have of course placed the plants in different positions within this terrarium, making this trial much less scientific than my other trials, which are far more exacting and precise! The fact that these orchids are rare and I do not wish to harm them compromises the trial, as if one of these plants needing misting and I only had time to mist that one plant I would do so. Whereas in my other trials, whatever happens, all of the trialled plants receive the same amount of water at the same time – even if that means that I know a plant will die. That said, a great deal can be learnt from all of my various orchid trials – you can see which responses are produced in my trialled plants from the temperatures, humidity levels, light levels, and growing conditions the plant’s experience.
Aerangis citrata likes to be misted between five and seven times a week, throughout the year; however as you’ll see, although some of my plants are blissfully happy being misted this often, not all of the orchids that are residing inside this terrarium would wish for so much water!
This Aerangis hyaloides specimen would also like to be misted between five and seven times a week, non-stop, throughout the year. This orchid quickly becomes dehydrated, so if more than two days pass when this Aerangis hyaloides specimen is not misted, this miniature orchid will soon let you know that it’s not happy and needs more moisture! A dehydrated Aerangis hyaloides leaf soon shows obvious signs of dehydration: the leaves lose their shine at first, then the leaves become dull and pliable – flaccid and wrinkled and touched with yellow. If you look at my photographs above and below, you can see the signs of dehydration – it’s most obvious on the older leaves of this Aerangis hyaloides specimen. This plant is not severely dehydrated at the moment, far from it, but going back about nine months ago, this same Aerangis hyaloides specimen had become seriously dehydrated. Things have changed since then – this plant has been misted much more frequently, on a regular basis. Thankfully this plant is now recovering from its ordeal, but I am aware that this Aerangis hyaloides specimen would be happier and the plant would do better with a little more misting.
It’s worth mentioning that I am usually carrying out plant care and taking photographs at the same time, so you usually see my plants at their worst, as you see my plants just before or just after they have been given a misting with rain water but not long enough after the watering to see my plants as they plump up and relax a little, just as we all do after having a drink!
Since my last update on this terrarium there is expected, but still exciting news! This Aerangis hyaloides specimen began producing a number of new flowering stems at the beginning of July 2018, you many be able to spot three new flowering stems in my photographs above and below. I think of Aerangis hyaloides as being December or January flowering orchids. This orchid species produces beautiful flowers that sparkle like crystals! I often think that Aerangis hyaloides flowers look as if they have been knitted from frost by a fairy, they are so very beautiful. I cannot share this delightful orchid’s flowers with you for this update – perhaps next time, but if you’d like to see another Aerangis hyaloides specimen in flower, this time inside my White Orchid Trial BiOrbAir, here’s a link.
I actually have three Aerangis macrocentra specimens growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium, all of these plants were purchased as very young seedlings from the same nursery – Burnham Nurseries in the UK. I purchased the larger specimen, the plant you see above and below in October 2016, this young plant began producing its first flowering spike this summer. I was so excited to see the spike that I wanted to take this plant out of the terrarium and examine it closely, but sadly while I was doing this I managed to accidentally drop this Aerangis macrocentra specimen and in doing so I snapped the flowering spike off, can you believe it? I am so clumsy, it’s definitely a curse, I feel so dreadful when these things happen. Thankfully the plant itself lives on, hopefully this plant will enjoy a successful flowering soon – whatever happens, good or bad, I’ll let you know!
This larger Aerangis macrocentra specimen is growing in a lower position within this terrarium, it’s a little further away from the lights than the two slightly smaller plants above. A deeper, thicker protective carpet of moss has grown over and around this larger orchid specimen’s roots. I purchased the larger Aerangis macrocentra specimen in October 2016, while the two smaller Aerangis macrocentra plants were purchased in May 2017. Needless to say, as I write to you in September 2018, none of these Aerangis macrocentra plants have flowered yet, I’ll let you know if any of the plants start to send out a flower spike!
Here are the two younger Aerangis macrocentra specimens, these plants are growing in a higher position, where they are closer to the BiOrbAir Terrarium’s lights and to this Madagascan BiOrbAir Terrarium’s continuously running fan, which means that these plants receive brighter light and drier growing conditions. Both of these Aerangis macrocentra specimens are growing well, I think of Aerangis macrocentra as being perhaps one of the most resilient Aerangis species, this plant is very happy growing inside the BiOrbAir terrarium.
This Aerangis punctata specimen is also in good shape, this plant looks to be receiving the optimum amount of water, I wouldn’t want to give this orchid any more moisture. However, with plump, luscious leaves, you usually find that something wants to eat them, in this case it’s a pesky, teeny tiny snail, which has nibbled part of one of this plant’s older leaves, but the most significant damage was done when a snail chewed around the apex – around the rim of a new leaf, consequently this has caused the new leaf to frazzle up and dried out – such a shame! It’s so frustrating to see this lovely orchid be hampered in its growth in such a manner. Since I spotted the damage to this Aerangis punctata specimen’s leaves, I have been busy again with my optimum, tried and tested method of removing slugs and snails from terrariums, using slices and chunks of cucumber – the trick is the cucumber is added to the terrarium and then removed once it has attracted a snail, making it much easier to remove any snails or slugs living inside a terrarium, as you can lift the creatures out easily by picking up the cucumber slice. I use my terrarium toolset for this kind of job, if you’re interested to find out about the tools, here’s a link.
This Aerangis fuscata specimen, which was purchased as another Aerangis species, but I believe to be Aerangis fuscata is not growing as well as I would like. This plant does not wish for as much moisture as the Aerangis citrata, Aerangis hyaloides and Aeranthes arachnites plants that are growing inside this Madagascar terrarium. So, if you’re thinking of growing this plant yourself, I’d suggest that you take care while watering, and make time to observe your plant regularly before you carry out any care for your plant, as these plants do tend to require a slightly drier period of a month or so, every now and then. My Aerangis fuscata specimen that you see pictured here, switches between seeming very happy, to looking pretty terrible, all within the space of a few days, at least two or three times a year. This orchid species can be hard work and a little temperamental!
The unsightly black areas that you can see around this Aerangis species’ roots and main stem are where I have removed the moss that was growing rapidly around this miniature orchid, to prevent it swamping the plant and covering the plant’s leaves and too much moisture has collected on the plant’s stems. These darkened areas on this orchid’s stems don’t look a picture of health, they don’t look very nice at all, but hopefully this Aerangis fuscata specimen will return to a strong healthy growth pattern again soon. This is another orchid whose new, young leaves are very attractive to slugs and snails, there have been so many times when this plant’s lovely new leaves have been devoured by a tiny snail. Can you spot the snail?
Snails can often be a problem in terrariums and bottle gardens. At the beginning of July 2018, I rather smugly thought that my earlier problems with snails eating my orchids growing inside my terrariums were behind me, then I spotted this scruffy, chewed Aeranthes arachnites inflorescence! Since I took this photograph, I have gone back to using my tried and tested method of using slices of cucumber as a bait for slugs and snails: I simply pop a few cucumber slices inside my terrarium, then I wait awhile, before removing the cucumber (hopefully complete with snails on the cucumber) whenever I can – which can be anywhere from thirty minutes to ten hours later. By following this method, I have successfully removed four or five snails from this terrarium within an hour, with very little effort.
I must say that although this Aeranthes arachnites specimen is much too large really for most terrariums, including this BiOrbAir terrarium, this surely is a floriferous plant! This Aeranthes arachnites specimen flowers so often. I haven’t always been able to make time to take some pictures of the plant’s blooms, so as it flowers so often I tend to put off taking the pictures for another day,. I have missed a number of flowers since my last update – I am sorry! If you’re interested in Aeranthes arachnites, you can see better photographs here. This plant would grow very happily if it was mounted on cork or other bark, as my plant is, this is such a special orchid!.
Aeranthes arachnites is another orchid that likes regular, heavy misting, I find that this orchid enjoys being misted heavily from five to seven times a week.
This Angraecum dollii specimen has been kept a little wetter than the plant would have liked. Sadly the end result of the dank growing conditions is the newer, smaller section of this plant has now sadly died away and is no longer visible in these pictures – these leaves are now just a memory – you can just make them out in my photograph below.
Angraecum dollii needs careful monitoring to ensure that you do not give your plants more moisture than they require – which is what has happened here. When orchids are having a period of rest – when the plants are not actively growing they do not require any fertiliser and need only a very light mist of moisture, which I like to provide early in the morning, on a regular basis.
This dear little Angraecum equitans specimen has remained at the same tiny size since I bought this plant in July 2015, which as I write was three years and three months ago now. Even when the plant has been at it’s happiest, this orchid can still throw me off guard a little from time to time, as this plant’s roots seem to spontaneously rot away every few months or so. Thankfully so far each time this has happened, with the right care, this diminutive little plant has been able to regenerate itself. I hope that this miniature orchid will be happy in my care and will grow readily now it has been re-mounted. If you’re thinking of remounting your orchids, generally speaking, the best time to pot your plant on, or mount your plant onto cork or other tree bark or branches is in spring time, just before, or just as your plant is coming into growth.
When I examined this Angraecum equitans specimen on the 26th August 2018, I could tell that this plant’s roots had rotted away again, as the plant was loose, it moved easily and freely, in any direction, when I moved the cork that this plant was mounted onto. Without the roots, there there was nothing but the fabric of the flexible material strips, which I cut from stockings and use to mount my orchids onto cork, to hold the plant in place – so this Angraecum equitans specimen was not anchored at all. To remedy this, I removed the plant from its moss and replaced the cork and the moss this orchid was grown in. Usually if you remove an orchid from the moss it’s growing in, you find that the plants are firmly attached, but this Angraecum equitans was not at all rooted, the plant seemed to have gone into an extended sulk.
Every few months, this Angraecum equitans specimen alternates between being well anchored and rooted, growing happily, wrapped in a little moss, and mounted onto a section of cork bark, to being unhappy, when the plant loses its roots and needs to be mounted again.
This Angraecum ochraceum specimen was first introduced into this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium in January 2018, so at the time of writing, this miniature orchid has been growing inside this Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium for nine months. During this period, this plant has fluctuated a little from time to time, but it’s doing OK – this miniature orchid has produced new leaves and new roots, in fact this plant has almost doubled in size over the past nine months, which is fabulous!
This Angraecum ochraceum specimen has split itself into two separate plants, which are each headed in different directions. To ensure that the moss that is growing around this plant is not harming this Angraecum ochraceum specimen, I will gently remove a little of the moss that is growing around this orchid’s roots over the next couple of weeks. I do this simply to ensure that any new leaves that this plant produces are not hidden or obscured from view, for too long, while the leaves are being produced; as the leaves of this orchid, like the leaves of many plants, are very vulnerable to attack while they new. New leaf material is softer and more succulent, so it’s easier for slugs, snails, and other insects, to devour and damage this plant while the leaves are young and still developing.
As you can see in my photographs above and below, this Angraecum ochraceum specimen has a serious amount of webbing between one of its leaves! Today I also noticed that a spider has taken up residence in the lid of my BiOrbAir, but this spider has now been safely re-homed outdoors.
I use SB Plant Invigorator as part of my regular care for all of my indoor miniature orchids, this helps to control the numbers of spider mites, aphids, scale insect, mealy bugs, and other pests. I don’t use SB Invigorator outside, I only use this product indoors.
You can see in these photographs, that this Angraecum ochraceum specimen has almost grown into two separate plants. Before my next update, I will move some of this moss, a little at a time and observe this plant, to see if it grows better without such a thick carpet of moss covering the core of the plant.
To head straight to the next update for this Madagascar Terrarium, please click here.
Other articles that may interest you…………
To read the first part of my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.
To read the first part of my White Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.
To read the first part of my Miniature Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.
To read about the general care I give to my orchids and terrarium plants, and the general maintenance I give to my BiOrbAir terrariums, please click here.
For information on how to mount epiphytic orchids onto cork bark, please click here.
To read about the great new features of the 2017 BiOrbAir terrarium, please click here.
To read a Planting List of a wide range and variety of beautiful plants which are suitable for growing in terrariums, vivariums, bottle gardens, and indoor gardens, please click here.
To see a Planting List of beautiful, miniature orchids, suitable for growing in terrariums, vivariums, bottle gardens, and indoor gardens, please click here.
To read about the Writhlington Orchid Project, please click here.
To read about the Queen of Orchids and this special plant’s flowering at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, please click here.