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Aerides


Category: Plants and Orchids
Date Posted: 2006-03-26


A. Quinquevulnerum is the most common of the five indigenous representatives of that graceful Asiatic genus, Aerides. The glossy recurved leaves of this plant are nine to twelve inches long, one to 11/Z inches wide, and have an unequal apical notch. The racemes are drooping, ten to fifteen inches long, with fifteen to twenty yellow-white waxy flowers, each about one inch in diameter. Of these the dorsal sepal and the petals are similar and equal while the lateral sepals are slightly smaller. Each petal and sepal is white,, with a bright blotch of amethyst-purple at the apex and numerous small purple dots throughout. The labellum is three-lobed and prolonged into a curving horn-like spur, somewhat greenish toward the tip. The principal flowering season of the plant is during July and August, at which time there are usually two or three sprays on a plant and the flowers, which last a week or more, exude a sweet fragrance that is most predominant in the morning.

The first plants of this species to be sent from the Philippines were discovered by Cuming, in the neighborhood of Manila, sometime during the four years between 1836 and 1840. Numerous plants are still found growing on rough-barked trees, such as the introduced Mango trees, within twenty miles of the city of Manila. They are also common throughout the low humid areas of central Luzon. The specific name quinquevulnerum means "five wounds" in reference to the five apical spots of reddish color on the three sepals and two petals. This species was first described by Lindley in 1838.

A. quinquevulnerum is a variable species and some of the varieties are highly esteemed by collectors as horticultural types. Of these, A. quinquevulnerum var. purpuratum is similar to the type in size and habit, but the flowers are burgundy colored. This plant is generally confined to the hot areas of the Islands of Mindoro, and was first described by Reichenbach in 1881. The varietal name purpuratum is derived from purpuratus in reference to the purple color of the flower. Another interesting and desirable variety is A. quinquevulnerum var. Farmeri or album, the white form of the type.

The genus Aerides was founded by the Portuguese missionary and botanist Loureiro and published in his Flora Cochinchinensis, in 1790, upon the type species Aerides odoratum which is prevalent in Cochin-China. There are about fifty species of Aerides distributed throughout the Malay Archipelago, India, and East Asia. The plants of this group have a monopodial type of growth, one which continues to grow along one axis and no pseudo-bulbs are produced. These plants are supported by numerous cord-like roots which cling tenaciously to the trees. The generic name Aerides is derived from the Greek and means "air plants" in reference to the extended aerial growth of the plants.

The type species upon which this genus was founded, although common to Cochin-China and other areas of the mainland of southeast Asia, opposite the Philippine Islands, is quite rare in the Islands themselves. Plants of this species, which are sometimes encountered in Luzon, are similar to but larger than A. quinquevulnerum and the flowers possess a characteristic sweet spicy fragrance that is much stronger than the fragrance of any other native Aerides. The specific name odoratum means "strongly scented." The flowers of the species are about 11/2 inches in diameter and the apical blotches of reddish purple color are not as pronounced as in A. quinquevulnerum while the spur-shaped labellum is light orange-yellow.

The finest Philippine Aerides is A. Lawrenciae, a plant from eastern Mindanao which grows from four to six feet tall. This plant resembles the other species of the group, except that it is much larger and stronger. The similar drooping racemes, which are eighteen to twenty inches long, produce fifteen to twenty flowers, each about 1? to two inches across the petals. These are similar to the flowers of A. quinquevulnerum but much larger. The fragrance in this species is not as pronounced as A. odoratum but is sweet and quite noticeable, especially in the morning. These flowers are also longer lasting than any of the other native species (two or three weeks) and they gradually change color with age, turning from greenish to waxy white and finally are yellowish white. Usually more than one spray forms on a plant, an effect that produces a handsome display. In its native habitat this species flowers more frequently than once a year. In Manila, however, the plant has one flowering season, from August through October.

A. Lawrenciae is found growing associated with Vanda Sanderiana in eastern Mindanao and was discovered there by Roebelin in 1882-83. The plant was dedicated to Lady Lawrence, wife of the then-president of the British Royal Horticulture Society. This is also a variable species and naturally numerous horticultural types exist. Among them are Var. amesianum, which has long racemes of orange yellow flowers, sepals and petals tipped with purple, and Var. Sanderiana, a plant with flower spikes two feet long and flowers that have a yellowish lip and creamy white sepals and petals tipped with magenta.
The species A. Lawrenciae and A. odoratum are often confused because both plants are approximately the same size and the flowers have a similar shape. A careful appraisal of the flowers will bring out the following prominent peculiarities, however. The fragrance of A. odoratum is much stronger than that of A. Lawrenciae. In fact, in some types of the latter, the odor is barely perceptible. The labellum of the two species differ in the fact that the elongated spur of A. odoratum is more sharply curved than A. Lawrenciae and the pouch or sac of the labellum of A. Lawrenciae is almost twice as wide through the middle portion as it is in A. odoratum. The middle lobe of the lip of A. Lawrenciae is prominently toothed, while in the other species, it is almost smooth, and in A. Lawrenciae it has long ear-like appendages on the middle lobe of the labellum that are missing in A. odoratum. Both species flower from August to October.
A. jarckianum, the fourth indigenous Aerides is a relatively new introduction as a horticultural species. This plant, a native of southern Luzon, is similar to A, quinquevulnerum, about twelve to twenty inches tall and has leaves six to ten inches long. In fact, the only major difference, which will distinguish the two plants when not in flower, is the characteristic of A. jarckianum to retain its flower stalk with its reddish bracts after flowering, while they usually drop from A. quinquevulnerum. The flowers of A. jarckianum appear during August and September and last for a little more than three weeks. The flower scape is less drooping than in the other Aerides and is almost erect or ascending and strongly recurved about the middle. The individual blooms are narrower and longer (one-half inch wide and one inch long) in proportion, than the other species of the group and are a light burgundy color. Each flower is spreading and the upper part is hood-shaped, while the spur of the labellum is elongated and only slightly curved. The three-lobed lip differs greatly from the other species of this group. The spur is more sac-like, straight, and not as tapering as are the others. The base of the labellum is also narrow and not pouch-like. The middle lobe is comparatively much longer in Aerides jarckianum, with the, two small white side lobes overlapping the middle lobe. The side lobes in the other plants of this genus are quite prominent. This species was originally described by Schlechter and is named in honor of Jarck, a one-time resident of Manila.

Although this species is rather rare, it can be found in Rizal, southern Luzon and Samar at low altitudes. This species is free-blooming and, even if neglected, the plant seldom fails to flower. This is the only native Aerides that will flower satisfactorily if cultivated in a shady location.

All plants of this genus are quite easy to cultivate and are often among the first species in an amateur orchid collection. Even when not in bloom, the graceful, glossy leaves are an interesting addition to the orchid -collection and the large fleshy roots give the orchid house a tropical appearance. In native habitat these plants are found growing on branches of trees often overhanging brooks and streams and sometimes, the roots take hold of rocks or grow on stony landslides. In cultivation, the most successful method of establishing the plants is to place them in wooden or wire baskets, where their roots will not be too confined.
All native-species of this genus are susceptible to infestation of scales, a pest which should not be allowed to increase. When the plants are attacked, they lose their healthy vigorous appearance and acquire a number of permanent yellow spots. The easiest method for control of this scale is to wash the infested plants with warm soapy water and leave the soap on the plants for a day, after which they should be sponged with clean water to remove the soapy film. Spraying with "Blackleaf 40" tobacco water and other scale control products is also satisfactory.
All of the Aerides plants require frequent watering during their growing season, from June to November. If the plants are kept too dry, even during the drier portion of the year, the leaves shrink and drop off, giving the plants a "leggy" appearance.



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