Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a flowering specimen of Masdevallia decumana. This cute miniature orchid was gifted to me by Eszter at the IOS meeting last autumn. It originates from the mountainous cloud forests of Peru.
Although the plant diameter is a meagre 10 cm and the leaves stand only 3 cm it has produced a relatively ginormous 9 cm blossom! The fascinating flower is not dissimilar, in my opinion, to that found in species from the closely related genus Dracula.
All my Masdevellias are grown in New Zealand sphagnum moss containing a little perlite (repotted annually) and are kept constantly moist throughout the year with sterilised (boiled) rainwater collected off my greenhouse roof. During the winter I place them on a north-facing windowsill in an unheated room (day 120C – night 90C). Through the summer I keep the plants warmer (day 200C – night 100C). Ideally they then should have high humidity and some enthusiasts apply electric fogging systems to achieve this but I just mist daily with a hand sprayer and give plenty of fresh air. It is crucial not to position the plants in bright hot locations as this will lead to stress which can result in the infamous sudden leaf collapse.
The unique-selling-point of Masdevallias has to be the sheer diversity of the flower form and often accompanying fragrances the like of which are probably unparalleled even within the orchid family. Most species are small growing and so even a modest collection can be accommodated and they are easily propagated by splitting.
I am a relative newcomer to this bizarre genus as perhaps like many of you I was deterred by their difficult reputation. However to date those species I have grown have thrived. It is worth mentioning that there are now also many attractive Masdevallia hybrids which are more tolerant of their growing environment.
I will keep you updated on experiences and I welcome any advice particularly on the species to avoid!
I am delighted with the bijou decumana so a big thank-you to Eszter!