Motes Orchids

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Treasures from the Storm

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Excerpted from Florida Orchid Growing: Month by Month page 126-127 by Martin Motes. All rights reserved.

It's an ill wind that blows no one any good. Minor hurricanes are still a major nuisance but small blessing can nonetheless flow to South Florida orchidists in the enforced pruning of our trees which will bring cherished light to our orchids. The prunings themselves are a major resource for the clever orchidists. The streets of South Florida are typically lined with a virtually inexhaustible lode of great orchid mounting material in the wake of minor hurricanes. All that is needed is the energy to cut and haul the appropriate branches that will supply years of great orchid mounts. With such an abundant (dare I say windfall?) one can even be quite picky. The savant orchidist should select his material with an eye to the best suited and the most appealing. Three species stand out. First, the golden trumpet (Tabebuia argentea or caribae) whose cork like bark is ideal for most orchid genera is always the first to fall and particularly abundant in roadside plantings. 

Live oak (Quercus virginiana),a favorite host of our native epiphytes, is also highly favored by epiphytic orchids in general and dendrobiums in particular. It is, of course, of the very same genus as cork itself and the wood is highly durable. 

 Next among the commonly fallen and desirable is button wood (Conocarpus erecta) both green and silver, again a favored host of native epiphytes. These branches is "driftwood" on the hoof. It is the roots of this species that become the "driftwood" of orchid culture. The branches are great mounts too.

Other species such as bottle brush (Callistemon) are good but the three common storm victims will provide more than enough of the very best mounts. Look for branches that are forked or twisted or that have other distinctive turns that will add character to the finished mounts. 

 Try to imagine the plant situated on the branch. A small chain saw makes short work of these branches, quickly rendering them into raw works of art. A well sharpened double set hand pruning saw will do fine. Now would be a good time to acquire these tools if needed before they are inevitable truly needed in the aftermath of a major hurricane. When a "minor" storm has passed, we can count our blessings and collect the orchid manna falling from heaven.