Sanggumays Flowering in the City: A Noteworthy Philippine Orchid Species

Metro Manila, Philippines

sanggumay orchids mounted on living Mac Arthur palm (Ptychosperma macarthurii ) grown by the author

Blooming Season :

January, February, March , April and May ,  When the western parts of the country in nature experience the start of a dry period . Is also the time when the right time temperature is lower ( over 20F around 10 to 15 degree Celsius difference over the day time temperature ). These changes give signal to many plants species including the “ Sanggumay “ to produce buds and flowers.

Dendrobium anosmum grown  on a living palm ( grown by the author )

However the drop of temperature and dry spell must remain constant and continuous in order to successfully initiate buds for the period of 4 to 6 weeks. Watering during this period must be strictly reduce or withheld for about 4 – 8 weeks, Otherwise fewer buds and flowers are produced.

Dendrobium anosmum variety dearei or alba being sold at Centris Sunday Market

Ethno-Botanical Importance and Folklore :

Dendrobium anosmum are more popularly called ” Sanggumays ” the word were derived from two Tagalog root word ” Sangsang ” and ” Umay “.

Sangsang– is Tagalog word for nauseating , over-powerful  , stench smell .

Umay , nakakaumay, gumay – is another Tagalog word for fed-up ,   tiresome.  A sight to behold especially when grouped in clusters or clumped together in several trees or palms . Its generosity extends to its fragrance that seems to overpower the sense of smell but can be pleasant as one becomes acquainted with the scent that is distinct with sanggumay.

Sometimes local orchid orchid growers would also refer  other pendulous type of orchid species as” Sanggumays” Like Dendrobium aphyllum/ Dendrobium cucullatum , Dendrobium crumenatum ( from General Nakar- Quezon ) .

Dendrobium anosmum with different shades of violet

The smell of a blooming Dendrobium anosmum can be very overpowering for some distance. The name would also vary from one person to another and from one region to another. Some people call this orchid species ” Latigo ” in reference to the long cane similar to whipping cattle or horse  , Some people call this orchid species ” Purple Rain ”  In , Hawaii – This orchid species is called ”  Hono-hono “. Some people would also refer this orchid species as ” Grandmother ‘s orchid” In reference to their grandmother . This particular orchid species are grown by backyard gardener’s for several generations.

Dendrobium anosmum grown on a trunk of coconut palm in San Jose del Monte City , Bulacan province (Photo credit :Mr.Jeffrey Samonte )

The orchid  depicted above was from Mr. Jeffrey Samonte ( my friend )- an orchid enthusiast who lived in Novaliches , Quezon City.  This orchid species bloomed  few weeks ago in his parents home in San Jose del Monte City , Bulacan province. According to him , The original orchid plant  was from his grandmother’s orchid collection which is about 20 year- old plant.

Sanggumays used to be extensively grown in many parts of Metro Manila particularly Novaliches, Fairview, Valenzuela , Deparo, Caloocan , Marikina , San Juan  and in some posh villages where large trees are found.

almost withered flowers ( photo courtesy of Mr. Jeffrey Samonte)

This orchid had a long pseudo bulbs / canes and almost 1 meter long canes that are attached to a coconut palm along with some native orchid species.  However in recent years due to extensive land development in Metro Manila and lands that used to be mango orchards are now converted into subdivisions and concrete urban jungle prevails. Compared 20 to 30 years ago , there are fewer people know how to take care of these orchids species. Some housewives would prefer other plants or some orchid hybrids because they are more free flowering / blooming compared to this once in a year- bloomer!

sanggumay attached to a mango tree within Greenbelt , Makati City

We are also documenting some green spaces around Metro Manila where they are using native orchids as part of their landscaping projects.

We are happy that land developers like Ayala took notice in the beauty of these native species and try to incorporate them with their landscaping projects.

sanggumays at the recent 68th annual orchid show

These large flowering sanggumays are from the collection of Ms. Vangie Go. Their long canes and large flowers came from Abra and Benguet area. Some local taxonomists say that they are Dendrobium anosmum variety superbum / giganteum . They have larger pseudo bulbs compared to the ordinary ones , Some  orchid canes may reach 3 meters or even longer and flowers can reach more than 12 centimeters to 15 centimeters !!!

Some people have different superstitious beliefs with regards to the cultivation of these wonderful orchid species . Some believe that they ward -off evil spirits , Other believe that they bring good fortunes . While some believe that they are bad for Feng Shui since they grow downward.  . Some ethnic groups use the thick canes for  medicinal purposes , rope, and handicrafts . The orchid flowers are also used as lies for graduation ceremony and decoration for altars . Aside from the aesthetic value used by landscapers .

Care and Propagation:

Propagation is a simple technique, We acquired our first sanggumays more than 20 years-ago , When a caretaker of a temple in Quezon City is making some clean-ups on the so called dead canes . We ended -up with a couple of canes and planted them on a living tree. Some of our sanggumays were given by relatives coming from provinces. Others were bought from different garden centers or provincial flea market .

I used to prefer fern slabs as a good media for planting these orchid species , they are hardy and durable however since Department of Environment and Natural Resources ( DENR ) and other conservation organization are raising the red signal over the over collection and habitat loss , I decided to shift to other media like coconut husk, charcoal, kakawate trunks, live palms or live trees . Old pseudo bulbs / canes can be propagated and can be induced to produced keikis ( anaks /suhi / offsets ).

Watering and Fertilization:

I  fertilize my Dendrobium anosmum after watering / drenching  them , 2 to 3 times a week !  Especially during warm and sunny days ! –  But i dilute the water soluble fertilizer to just 1/4 of the recommended dosage . I normally use 2 to 3 kinds of fertilizer brands ( formulation 20N-20P-20K) As they say ” WEAKLY WEEKLY ” I would also use  fresh rice washing ( hugas bigas) . I would delegate the choirs to my other sibling. They would dilute the rice washing and  water the orchids from leaves and roots. I would also use water from our fish tank or aquarium then dilute them 1 part aquarium water to 1 part ordinary tap ( de-chlorinated ) water whenever we change water in our aquarium. This is a practical organic way of fertilizing plants and orchids!

specimen sized orchid

I also fertilize the undersides  leaves of my sanggumays . Sometimes when we harvest our coconuts we would also use 1 part coconut water and then dilute them to a mixture to 1 part of water and would use the diluted coconut water and drench our sanggumays and other orchid species!

During rainy season , I would only apply fertilizer once a week and put slow release fertilizer ( 15 to 20 granules sewn to a small cloth ) for mature plants and ( 10 to 15 granules sewn to a small cloth ) for immature  per clump.  This would save me time to fertilize my orchids .  We would also apply fungicide just before the onset of the rainy season ( early May ) then apply them every 2 to 3 weeks intervals . These will help the orchid build resistance to any fungal diseases .

Air circulation is also a key to successful orchid cultivation. When in doubt , you can forgo watering them for 1 to 2 days ! over watering can kill an orchid .

Light: These orchid can tolerate high levels of    light and benefit from some hours of full sun, some can even stand full midday sun without complaint, Dendrobium anosmum can take between 50 % to 70% sunlight .  So try to choose a tree or a palm which have an ample spot of sunlight to penetrate . Try to prune over bushy trees like caimito (Chrysophyllum cainito )   , mangoes , chico , langka (Artocarpus heterophyllus )   and acacia ( Saman samanea) before the onset of the rainy season . While i prefer to mount them on living palms like Bunga china, Manila palm ( Adonidia merrillii ), Mac Arthur palm.

Range and Distribution:

China , India, Sri Lanka , Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua and New Guinea in gallery layers of lower primary forests at elevations up to 1,300 meters with terete, arching to pendulous, to 4′ [120 cm] long or even longer , many noded stem with each node enveloped by a loose fitting sheath and carrying oblong elliptic, acute, deciduous leaves.

Varieties

  • Dendrobium anosmum
  • Dendrobium anosmum var. huttonii
  • Dendrobium anosmum var. dearei or alba ( white form )
  • Dendrobium anosmum var. semi-alba (ordinary type, lavender column and white petals and sepals)
  • Dendrobium anosmum var. semi-alba -rubra (red orange lip semi-alba which is slowest growing and shortest canes of the species)
  • Dendrobium anosmum var. superbum / giganteum ( 12 cm to 15 cm across)
  • Dendroium anosmum var. javierii ( with pinkish column )
  • Dendrobium anosmum var. coerulescens ( blue type)
  • Dendrobium anosmum var. concolor
  • Dendrobium anosmum var. parviflora (small flowers)

References:

page 26 , How to produce more flowers on your Dendrobium anosmum or sanggumay Vol. 15 no. 1 Philippine Orchid Review , 2005

Orchids of the Philippines Cootes 2001

Website: http://stuartxchange.com/Sanggumay.html

http://www.orchidspecies.com/denanosmum.htm

http://www.projectnoah.org/spottings/13008333

Note : All photos posted in this article are from the author , Except those photos with “courtesy of ” are the property of the people who took the photos and thus permission were sought .

Some of the sanggumays ( Dendrobium anosmum)  are grown personally by the author.

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