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  • 1 Post By raybark

Bletia patula - looking for some cultural suggestions

This is a discussion on Bletia patula - looking for some cultural suggestions within the General Orchid Culture forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; Bletia patula is not often seen in cultivation outside of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean ...

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  1. #1
    Catt Mandu's Avatar
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    Default Bletia patula - looking for some cultural suggestions

    Bletia patula is not often seen in cultivation outside of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands.

    Several years ago, a friend on another online forum gave me a small division of B. patula. Maybe 4 pseudobulbs, largest about 1 cm across. Unfortunately, my friend no longer participates in that forum, and I have no way to contact him for advice.

    My plant has gotten a bit bigger, maybe the largest pseudobulb 2 centimeters now. However, the leaves & overall plant size makes me think it is struggling a bit. The leaves seem like they are easily damaged & often end up with what appears to be fungal damage. I am trying to improve how I am growing it.

    How it was planted when I got it: Shallow ceramic pot (small bonsai pot, maybe 10 cm x 15 cm x 4 cm deep). Medium was a mix of fine bark, LECA, and marble chips, maybe with a little fine organic matter too (organic mix, either peat or a peat moss based mix like African violet potting soil). I repotted to seedling-size bark and marble chips, back to the same pot.

    I know that B. patula grows as a terrestrial in soils developed on limestone in northern Puerto Rico. 30 years ago, I saw this plant growing as a lithophyte in pockets in limestone along a river near Manati, PR. I have read that in it's native habitat, invasive non-native Spathoglottis now competes with B. patula it for space. I am guessing they like similar growing conditions? Similar soil?

    The advice I need: I have a plan for how I would like to grow this species, & need some feedback. I plan to grow in a shallow terracotta azalea pot. Since the species naturally grows on porous limestone, and that is scarce where I live, I thought I would try chips of aged concrete as a substrate underneath a surface layer of organic material (concrete being calcined limestone mixed with sand & gravel and re-hydrated - I thought this might be an OK substitute for limestone). Over the concrete chips, I plan to layer some medium bark, maybe 3 cm thick, with 5 - 10% crushed eggshell to provide calcium and raise the pH. Finally, on top of that, I plan to mix African violet potting mix, or peat, with about 30% by volume coarse sand and 5 - 10% crushed eggshell, in a layer that is 3 to 4 cm thick.

    I know B. patula in the wild gets more rain in late summer & fall, less rain in mid winter - spring. Should I reduce water in the winter, and how often should I water while "dry"? Is watering every one week to two weeks sufficient during the dry period?

    I look forward to any suggestions that you can provide.

  2. #2
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    The little bit of reading I have done on the species does not suggest it's terrestrial, or even semi-terrestrial. It may very well be living on rocks covered with vegetative detritus, but can also be found growing epiphytically.

    I don't know how well this would translate to your conditions, but I find that if I have an "unknown culture" plant, I usually start with a shallow pot of loose sphagnum- it's moist enough to supply the plant, but open and airy enough to not suffocate it.

    Good luck! That looks like a great species to have.

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    I know that this species is native to Florida, which makes it illegal to collect, all native orchids are protected! The one thing I found was a picture taken in the Florida Everglades and it looks to be out in the open among the native grasses. The Everglades can be under water at times and it can be dry at times, so I would make a decision based on that information. I have sent a text to a friend who knows more about native orchids then I do and if he has any information I will pass it on.

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    Hi Ray

    I've done a little reading on it too, and the cultural suggestions seem to be all over the map. I'm basing my guess about the growing medium loosely on the Baker culture sheet, which seems to be loosely based on a book I can't get ahold of (Hawkes 1965, Encyclopaedia of Cultivated Orchids). That recommendation was equal parts rich loam, leaf mold, gritty sand, shredded or chopped osmunda or tree fern fiber, possibly with perlite charcoal and chopped sphagnum added, repotting annually. The concrete-as-fake-limestone was my idea, since they seem super common on limestone.

    I agree, it is a nice species. If I do figure this one out, maybe I can send you a piece!
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    Hi JDT

    FWIW, this was definitely NOT wild collected in Florida. My understanding is the plant had been in cultivation for quite some time, originating from Puerto Rican stock. It is supposed to be quite common there.
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    This is from Wikipedia;
    "Bletia patula, common name Haitian pine-pink, is a species of orchid. It is native to Florida, Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles."

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