Brassia orchids originate in South America in the equatorial regions and over a wide area. Although we think these parts are warm continuously, they grow at elevations of up to 3000 metres where it is not warm at all. Often called “spider orchids”, they have long thin petals with the flowers arranged alternately on the stem making a most attractive display. A plant with a dozen flower stems of 10-15 cm flowers can be absolutely stunning. The colours of the petals range from pale green to a golden yellow with red/brown marking towards their bases. These contrast with the brilliant white of the labellum.
These orchids are epiphytes and like most orchids prefer an open bark mix which retains only a moderate amount of moisture. They definitely do not like being waterlogged and are prone to fungi and rot problems in the wrong mix. They also do not like too much strong sunlight and new growths can become sunburnt. As factor 40 doesn’t seem to work, under 50% shadecloth or hanging in the eucalypt are the best alternatives. In addition this gives them the air movement they need and have in the wild. They prefer very weak fertiliser and not too often and are probably best described as thriving on neglect.
Brassias are one of the most widely hybridised genera we have. They have been crossed with more than a dozen other genera and often with more than one to produce the intergeneric hybrids often seen in shows. These plants are frequently very hardy with a wide tolerance of growing conditions making them ideal for beginner growers.
The Eastern Suburbs Orchid Society has an orchid show on the third Monday of every month at 8pm, St Luke’s Church Hall, Varna Street, Clovelly. Visitors are always welcome.