Monthly Terrestrial Orchid Culture – May

The following article by Les Nesbitt is taken from the Native Orchid Society of South Australia Journal, May 2019, Volume 43 No 4. The article has been slightly modified with editorial changes in black.

The majority of terrestrials will have leaves showing by month’s end. A few stragglers like South Australian Corybas and Western Australian Cyrtostylis huegelii will not appear until June so do not panic yet.

Pterostylis truncata (little dumpy) flowers this month with a large flower on a short stem. This species is given a blue tag to denote watering from January otherwise there will be no flowers under Adelaide conditions.

Tasks for May

  • Move the Autumn flowering greenhoods under cover as the flowers open because they generally have tall thin stems that will bend over under the weight of rain drops on the flowers.
  • Rot can be a serious problem in May. Do not overwater if there is little rain; and inspect plants closely and often. The rot can be on the leaves or below ground. Look for plants that are not thriving and give them a gentle tug to see if there are any
  • Move infected plants away from healthy plants to a hospital area under cover. Water from below by standing the pot in a saucer of water. Keep the leaves dry. Good air movement and at least 5 hours sunlight a day are essential for the next 3 months.
  • The fast multiplying orchids will appreciate a weak dose of liquid fertilizer once a month until spring.
  • Weeding is a chore this month as weed seeds germinate after rain. Pull them out while they are small maybe even with the help of tweezers.

Virus

Inspect plants closely for virus as the symptoms show in the emerging leaves. All plants can be infected with viruses of which there are many. There is no cure for virus. Infected plants must be destroyed to prevent virus spreading to healthy plants via sap sucking insects or human activities spreading sap. Infection during the growing season does not show up in the leaves until the following year. It is difficult to eliminate virus entirely hence the need to be vigilant.

Signs of Infection

  • Virused Pterostylis leaves may have light & dark green blotches or be thicker than normal and look crippled or turned up at the edges.
  • Another sign to look for are pointed pimples on Caladenia and Pterostylis
  • Virus is harder to spot on the narrow leaves of Diuris and Thelymitra. Healthy leaves are straight with almost parallel sides. Leaves that have kinks or are curved probably have a virus. Variegated blotching may be present in severe cases.

Managing

  • If only one or two plants, in a community-pot, show symptoms they can be lifted out soon after the leaves appear and before side stolons form.
    • A tool can be made from wire to do this. Bend a foot on the bottom of the wire and a loop handle on the other end.
    • Push the foot into the mix alongside the infected plant, rotate the foot under the tuber and lift the plant out.
  • At potting time (when tubers are dormant)
    • A sieve is a great time saver during repotting but at the same time an excellent way to spread virus.
    • Do not shake the sieve when tubers are present.
    • Pick out the tubers as you see them and drop them into a smaller kitchen sieve sitting in an ice-cream container of water. The sand and dirt wash off and falls through leaving clean tubers behind.
    • Use a jet of water to remove any remaining dirt.
    • Pat the lumps of mix in the big sieve to crush them to expose any tubers.
    • Shaking the sieve is the equivalent of sandpapering the tubers, a sure way to spread virus.
  • If several plants are virused it is better to dump the whole pot, soil and all.
  • Refuse new plants that look suspect.

ALL EFFORTS SHOULD BE MADE TO ELIMINATE VIRUS FROM AN ORCHID COLLECTION.

Pterostylis 'Nodding Grace'

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