Dendrobium cucullatum R. Brown 1822 with over 200 flowers
Our family had been growing orchids and ornamental plants for several generations. My grandmother is a plant and orchid lover, I have several aunts who cultivate and grow different flowering plants in their backyard or at their farms.
Dendrobium cucullatum grown on a Mac Arthur palm (Ptychosperma macarthurii ) for about 3 -years
Mac Arthur Palm was introduced to the Philippines during the American colonization and was a popular ornamental palm : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptychosperma_macarthurii
I think we got curious and have acquired our first pendulous -type of Dendrobium species Dendrobium cucullatum aka Dendrobium pierardii in the mid-1990’s when my mother went to her hometown in Bicol . According to her, This particular orchid species was widely cultivated in Bicol. She also reminiscent that when she visited the last time, around mid- 1980’s . she saw massive clumps in one of her second cousin’s backyard. She only took some photos and did not bother to ask for a few keikis ‘ anaks” .
Dendrobium cucullatum clumps more than one ( 1) meter -long attached to the trunks of Mac Arthur palm
This orchid, Dendrobium aphyllum (Roxburgh) C.E.C. Fischer is previously called Dendrobium pierardii Roxburgh ex Hooker, which is now considered a synonyms.
Here in the Philippines , people called this orchid species ” fairy sanggumay ” , ” dainty sanggumay ” , ” lesser sanggumay ” ” salome ” or simply ” sanggumay” . The flower are not as massive compared to the local sanggumay ( Dendrobium anosmum ) and the flowers are pale in color , There somewhat faint smell on the flowers . The pendulous canes are thinner compared to the typical Dendrobium anosmum. Some neighbors in Novaliches would also have some small clumps of these orchid species tuck in one corner of their garden.
Then, in 2003, orchid experts Mr. Eric Christenson and Mr. Howard Wood turned everything upside-down when they pronounced that D. aphyllum was not the same species as D. pierardii after all. They asserted that the plant William Roxburgh had illustrated back in the eighteenth century was a related but rather different species, which in 2003 was widely known as D. macrostachyum (never popular in horticulture due to its small, dully coloured flowers, but unusually widespread in the wild, from Sri Lanka to Australia and most areas in between). They also pointed out that the long-neglected name D. cucullatum was slightly older than D. pierardii.
It was again returned back to its original name Dendrobium aphyllum sometime 2010 after the some errors was reported . But for the purposes of writing this article , i will stick to the 2003 re-naming .
Economic and Ethno-Botanical Importance:
Some internet sites call this hooded orchid, hooded cow orchid , since the flowers looked like a cone shaped -lip . My father would call this Tiāngōng shíhú 天宮石斛 in reference to the pendulous habitat and it grow epiphytic . Some Chinese drugstore in Manila and in many Asian cities would used the dry canes for medicinal purposes .
In the Philippines, superstitious beliefs may vary from one town to another. It may depend on one person to another on ‘why’ they would cultivate and propagate these lovely orchid species in their backyard or properties.
One orchid collector considered them as lucky plants ( when they started growing and collecting Dendrobium anosmum and Dendrobium cucullatum – Their business gradually flourish and got more clients .
Dendrobium cucullatum / aphyllum were mounted on old trees
A backyard grower believes that it is considered unlucky since they are pendulous and growing downward position thus gave away all their orchids ( Sayang ! ) . Another collector believes that they ward -off evil spirits and thus planted their orchids near the entrance of one’s abode or house. Another neighbor told us that she saw some Aetas using the canes for their native handicrafts in Zambales .
Dendrobium aphyllum / cucullatum grown within Far Eastern University campus
This orchid is also popular among landscapers and property owners with large trees or palms . I saw a lot of mature specimen -sized orchids on large trees in Ayala-Alabang Village, Greenhills Village, Corinthian Gardens, Valle Verde, Forbes Park, Rizal Park , Far Eastern University – Nicanor Reyes Street , De La Salle University and Ugu Bigyan Pottery Compound .
a fairy sanggumay mounted on a duhat tree ( Syzygium cumini ) within Mrs. Adelina Almerol residence
When i attended an eyeball of the Pinoy Coke Fanatics last March 1, 2014 held at Ipil street , Marikina Heights, Marikina City – I walked from Ipil street number 1 to 150 plus. Along Ipil street , I saw several homes growing this particular orchid species mounted on living tree such as caimito, mango, jackfruit ( langka/ nangka) ,guava, madre de cacao ( Gliricida sepium ), duhat tree and even in boungainvillea ! I was surprise the almost total neglect that the homeowners gave to their orchids, and some even thought that are almost dead!!!!!
bougainvillea with a small clump of fairy sanggumay on the trunks
Although i did not not won any major prize during the raffle and contest held at the premises . I was rewarded by Tita Adelina Almerol , the owner of the place whom i tried to ask some keikis . She told me to just get some keikis in one of the duhat trees. ” Maraming Salamat po Ulit” rest assured that i will propagate those keikis!
Dendrobium cucullatum orchid festoon this guava tree
Her garden is simple but with a lot of big trees and full of native Dendrobium anosmum, Dendrobium cucullatum and Dendrobium crumenatum .
a jack fruit tree with orchids ( Dendrobium anosmum and Dendrobium cucullatum ) attached to its main trunk add beauty to the landscape
Some of her neighbors also have some orchids too!!!! I tried to ask her about when did she started growing them? According to her, The sanggumays, she refers to both small ( Dendrobium cucullatum ) and big types ( Dendrobium anosmum )as she brought from the province. Most of the orchids are more than a decade -old.
Another duhat tree with Dendrobium anosmum , Dendrobium cucullatum/ aphyllum and a Philodendron species
We used to have at least 100 fully grown specimen sized- plants of Dendrobium cucullatum collected from Nueva Ecija, Masbate, Sorsogon, Laguna, Quezon, Rizal, Bulacan , Pampanga, Albay, Marinduque , Ilocos , Pangasinan and even Metro Manila . Some were bought at the Manila Seedling Bank, sunday market, orchid peddlers , some are just given to me as keikis by neighbors and friends . I carefully tagged the different kinds or localities . However during the BIG construction boom , Almost half of our 100 specimen -sized Dendrobium cucullatum orchids were among the first casualties due to theft, concrete cement pouring by construction workers who cared-less for these native orchids ! Hindi man lang kayo nagpasintabi ….Tsk tsk tsk….
BUT just not to spark any flame wars with our neighbors who cared -less for these native orchids. HUH they do not have an idea it took almost 20 -years of collection ?
We just rescued all the orchids, hoyas, native ferns and attached them to a living host palms, trees and even re-potted some of the remaining survivors . We hope to re-collect some of the species we lost ! Ganyan talaga ang Buhay !
Growing and Propagation Method:
My growing techniques are simple and are tested , I would divide the clumps after the flowering season into 5 to 6 pseudo- bulbs from a specimen or “mother orchid” mounting them in small pre-cut kakawate wood putting a few mosses on top to keep the root in moist condition. When tree fern slabs were still common in the garden stalls , I would use them as a material before.
a juvenile plant mounted on a tree fern slab with small cloth ( with slow release fertilizers)
I would put some mosses or fern roots ( pasdak ) on the keikis in order for them to get establish before removing them when they reach at least 10- inch long with most of the roots covering the moss or fern roots. Thus the survival rate will be higher.
I would give them about 1- month rest period after blooming . Then fertilize my Dendrobium cucullatum or Dendrobium anosmum with a diluted NPK 20-20-20 every twice a week – reduce strength from the label.
Alternately giving them organic fertilizers and different brands of fertilizer once in a while ( example Peters , Siam, Gaviota ) . During its growing season ( starts after they bloom , when you see new growth had started mostly around late April or Mid- May ) . I would put a small bag of slow release fertilizer ( gather used stockings, socks and old clothes sew them into a small tea bag -like pack .
I had to put between 20 to 30 pellets of slow release fertilizer for a full grown orchid plant and between 10 to 15 pellets of slow release fertilizer for a immature orchid keikis , This will boost the growing rate of these orchid, normally since it is hot and rainy by the time their growing season started. I had to repeat putting the granules every 1 month , It is faster in tropical regions of the world that slow release fertilizers would leach-out their properties rather in the temperate areas ( mostly 2 months ) . The more frequent it rains , the more chances that we need to replenish the slow release fertilizers and start applying fungicide before the onset of the rainy season too ! I have to repeat this at least 5 to 6 times within the growing period from late March till October or November ( growing season may also vary from region to region and by continents ) . I would slowly stop my fertilization to all my Dendrobium ( deciduous type ) .
a smaller flowering sized – Dendrobium given to me as keikis 3 weeks -ago by Ms. Adelina Almerol of Marikina City
I have to wait until the last growth and slowly minimizing my watering cycle from almost daily ( due to monsoon rains everyday – We get at least 91- inches of rain in Novaliches, Quezon City area ) To almost twice-a week by October and almost once a week watering cycle by November . When the growth is plump and the leaves are mature enough. Slowly reduce the watering and by late November or early December, Start to dry the deciduous-type of Dendrobiums . I completely stop all watering and just reduce all watering activities to just misting the surrounding areas and plants just to avoid too much shivering of the pseudo-bulbs. At this time all leaves are becoming yellow or had fallen -off the pseudo-bulbs.
Within 1 or 2 months period, Maybe late January , February until first week of March , You can see small bumps at the pseudo-bulbs indicating that flowering is on its way . You can resume watering , flowers can last between a few days ( maybe due to thrips )up to at least 2 weeks.
Habitat and Distribution Range:
This orchid species can be found in wide range of habitat from 100 meter elevation up to more than 1,000 meters elevation . It can be found on trees and may grow on rocks or boulders as Lithophytes. This orchid species is widespread from India, Sir Lanka, Yunnan, China, Taiwan , Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Maldives, Himalayas, , Andaman islands, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Borneo, Lesser Sunda Islands, Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Queensland , Australia, Nepal, Bhutan and the Philippines.
According to some observations, This orchid used to be collected in Mindoro, Leyte , Quezon , Laguna , Batangas , Bicol provinces , Visayas and Mindanao area. However due to the nature of this species, It also invaded some lowland fruit tree plantations and can be found growing in cultivated areas such as lansones plantations, caimito , acacia , duhat tree. There were some Dendrobium cucullatum / Dendrobrium aphyllum that were deliberately introduced from neighboring Thailand, Malaysia and India in the late 1970’s by plant traders which introduced them to the Philippine market. They are larger and darker in color form compared to the type species that are normally encountered .
I hope that with what remains in our garden will inspire , orchid species collector like me had gone through .” Kahit kaunti na ang natira ” , even if there are few that survive the onslaught . There is still a renewed HOPE that in our small way , we can nurture , care , help and propagate these valuable native species ! I hope to seek the other forms from other sanggumay collectors in other parts of the country.
Note: Currently we are looking for some forms of this orchid species for eventual re-establisment in one of our group member who had a small farm in Antipolo, Rizal.
Philippine Orchid Conservation and Preservation Volunteers
Facebook Page ( Private group ) : https://www.facebook.com/groups/407610329339909/
The group currently had 75 members in different parts of the Philippines
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