Friday, August 29, 2008

New orchid shade house

Finally the skies cleared up and was able to get the shade cloth up this evening. Can't wait to complete everything and start filling it up with orchids! :D That's the best part, shopping for orchids!


Feels Like December!

The past few days have been nothing like normal August weather here in Kuching. Usually, this time of the year it's really hot, dry and hazy with no rains for many days. This year however, it's been highly unpredictable. The weather's gone crazy. Today, it's been raining since around six this morning for about 2 or 3 hours now.

I'm actually building a new orchid shade house and while outside yesterday evening, sawing and measuring etc, a bolt of lightning struck just about 100 meters away setting off car alarms and knocking out the power. It was pretty scary when I thought how it could have struck nearer and put me in danger!

Can't do much today as the grounds are all muddy with the rain. Hope the weather will return to normal as I have quite a few orchids flowering outside and the rains are causing all the snails run amok!

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Mushrooms, fungus, orchid pests and problems

Keeping phals outside is not easy. I have to check on them every day. If I skip a week of checking, I almost always find a leaf or two rotting at the edges, eaten up by snails and slugs, infected by bacteria, yellowing, attacked by parasitic bugs or stung by pests.

A snail chewed on this new spike. The flower bud was also affected and will soon drop off.

Bugs like to sting the new leaves causing them to be deformed. In serious cases, the damaged parts get infected and if not snipped off quickly, the rot continues on to the crown of the plant. This has happened to a few of my phals.

Mushrooms also grow in my orchid media and orchid mounts.

These mushrooms grow at lightning speed, they appear overnight and mature in a day or two. Hence the phrase " mushrooms after the rain...".

I think they are toxic! Not a single insect around them.

Fungus too!

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Phal bellina and dealing with bothersome fruit flies!

Phalaenopsis bellina. I just love this species. The plants are almost always constantly in bloom, one flower after another. Sometimes, they put on a really beautiful display with several flowers opened at a time:

The fragrance attracts a lot of fruit flies:

Sometimes they knock off the pollen cap without pollinating the flower, causing the flower to wither and drop off in a few days. I would also have no way of being 100% sure if the pollen was from the same flower, plant or a different phal species altogether when the pod starts to develop after insect pollination. The biggest problem I have with these fruit flies is that I always find pock marks and sting marks on the flowers and leaves if they are not dealt with quickly. I am certain other insects such as grasshoppers and beetles are just as guilty for damaging the orchids but these fruit flies are a real nuisance! They also pollinate my bulbo macranthum flowers before I even have a chance to enjoy them. They also sting our guavas and gourds, passion fruit and tomatoes.

So to deal with these buggers, here's what I do:

1. Try and catch them by hand. Usually they are so engrossed with the flowers they do not see my finger and thumb approaching before it's too late. Having caught a few, I'd feed them to my CPs (carnivorous plants) such as my Venus fly traps and Sarracenias.

My S. flava. A tasty fruit fly every now and then does them good.

Now you see it...

Now you don't!

2. The most effective way of controlling fruit flies is by setting up a fruit fly trap utilizing methyl eugenol as an attractant. First, find a mineral water bottle and make small holes big enough for the flies to crawl through on the top half. Then, fill it with water and place a small piece of sponge dabbed with methyl eugenol in it. Hang this trap among your plants.

Within moments, the flies move in!

They crawl through the holes at the top...

And subsequently drown in the water as they fly around trying to find a way out and knock into the slippery wall inside the bottle.

I took these pictures this morning. I walked away for about ten minutes and came back to find more flies than I could count drowning in the water! Very effective huh? I read somewhere that methyl eugenol attracts the male flies, and when the male flies are destroyed, the population quickly drops as the females are no longer able to breed. In my experience, the sponge needs to be re-dabbed with methy eugenol every few months.

I also made a short video (mp4) that shows the flies and the trap. If you are unable to view mp4 files, a low quality vid is available on my Flickr page here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A quick walk in the jungle

I had to go to a particular bank today and the closest branch is located in a small town near a small mountain. After my business with the bank, I drove up to the foot of the mountain, parked my car by a stream and walked into the forest for a quick look. It was cool by stream, the water cascading over the rocks created a very cool breeze. But further in, it got really hot and stuffy, extremely humid. I went in clean and shirt tucked in and all, came out all sweaty and my shirt totally soaked! And I was only in there for less than half an hour! In the humid conditions, I could see lots of orchids very high up on the very tall trees though, mostly bulbos and eria. Some monopodial orchids as well, which I think are probably Micropera species and perhaps a renanthera or two.

Cyms and coelogyne too but not sure of what kind.

This stream appears to be a popular picnic spot but when I was there it was extremely quiet and only a villager or two passing by on scooters. There is a small tarred road leading up to the top where there is a small village and a chapel right at the top. The mountain itself is not very high but looking at it from google earth's images, it seems like it's quite a large mountain and behind it seems to be miles of green jungle. The road up also happens to be a popular jogging track with town folk. I had never been there before today, but now I really want to go explore and walk to the top, maybe this weekend.

Just a couple weeks ago I was in another area, it was a lot dryer in that jungle and in that big area, I came across only dendrobium rosellum. No other orchids, contrast that with this jungle with a stream and cascading waterfalls... lots of orchids. Of course we all know that orchids are often found by streams because of the high humidity, but it's still a very fascinating contrast.

Okay 'nuff talk, here are some lousy pics taken with my camphone. I'll be back there again definitely, next time with my SLR and zoom lens.

A quiet village road:
Quiet village road

It's very cool and quiet here, very relaxing if it weren't for the pesky mosquitoes!

Lichen and mosses grow on the tall tree branches high above the ground. I could spot bulbos, eria and dendrobium growing on them.

I think this is a sandstone mountain, lots of sandstone boulders strewn across the stream. Lots of organic matter caught between the rocks, bamboo leaves, twigs, sticks, tree branches...

There's an orchid growing near the top of this dead tree, baking in the hot sun and looks like it's dying. The once healthy moss all look dead and dry. It was too high for me to reach it.

Here's an interesting find... an Amophorphallus growing up to about 7 feet tall. Look at the patterns and coloration on the stem, like the skin of a python!

I am not familiar with amophophallus but I think this one is not fully developed yet, the "fronds" have not fully opened.

Very nice atmosphere here... lots of green, different shades of green and the blue sky behind the trees make for a pretty picture:

A little waterfall. This waterfall is a source of water for the surrounding villages and there is a sign nearby warning anyone who bathes or fish in it will be prosecuted. A barb wire fence surrounds it.

A giant aroid, this thing is huge!

This is probably Coelogyne rochussenii

A species of bulbo on a large tree trunk, VERY dark here, very high humidity as the waterfall is not far away. I believe this large tree is being hugged by the roots of a strangler fig...

Hope to return with my SLR and get some good photos next time!
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