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BULBOPHYLLUM spiesii

Image of Bulbophyllum spiesii

James Burghardt

Family

Orchidaceae

Botanical Name

BULBOPHYLLUM spiesii

Plant Common Name

Bulbophyllum, Orchid

General Description

Large, flopping, tongue-like leaves and clusters of dark red flowers that reek of rotting meat, make Bulbophyllum spiesii an orchid that should be encountered at least once! (But maybe not twice.) A tropical epiphyte from the hot, humid forests of New Guinea eastward into the nearby Pacific Islands, it thrives along low and mid-level tree branches and trunks. The rotten stench of the flowers attracts green bottle flies, which pollinate the blooms.

Plants are comprised of a small group of large, rounded pseudobulbs that form a cluster. Each pseudobulb holds one enormous, dull green leaf that is thick, leathery and looks like a long cow tongue. A mature pseudobulb will present a short-stemmed, rounded flower cluster the size of a small dinner plate. Each individual blossom is black-red to blood red, with sepals (petal-like leaves) that look like a fleshy turtle's tongues with small white specks. Flies frequent the smelly flowers for pollination.

Provide Bulbophyllum spiesii bright shade and a warm, humid growing environment outdoors in a tropical garden. Indoor growing is suggested only for the most adventurous gardeners. This true epiphyte should be mounted to a tree or palm trunk, wedged into a wooden basket or pot filled with fine bark nuggets. Water regularly and make sure drainage is perfect. Dilute applications of liquid fertilizer are welcome spring through autumn. Reduce watering in winter. Provide good air circulation for good health and to discourage pests and disease. Be sure to provide just the right amount of light; too little turns the leaves super dark green and discourages flowering while direct hot sun will scald leaves.

This is an impressive, large orchid to grow as a specimen in a warm to hot porch or greenhouse. The flowers are visually unbelievable, and definitely offensively scented.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 10

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    12 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H2

  • Plant Type

    Epiphyte

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    2'-4' / 0.6m - 1.2m

  • Width

    1'-3' / 0.3m - 0.9m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Spring, Spring, Early Winter, Winter, Late Winter

  • Native To

    Southeastern Asia, Melanesia, Micronesia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Weeping

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Crimson, Dark Red, Black

  • Fruit Color

    Purple, Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Bold

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Feature Plant, Hanging Basket, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No