Phaius tankervilleae

This magnificent species is a very widespread terrestrial, being found along the eastern seaboard of Australia from well into NSW right up the East coast of Queensland and on through PNG, Indonesia, Malaysia, Indo-China, Thailand and on into Northern India. It has also become naturalised on some of the islands of the West Indies. As one would expect of an orchid with a very wide range, there are several synonyms, and plants from different parts of the range show a little variation in blooms, but all fit within the species. There has also been some confusion over the spelling of the specific epithet, but it seems that the above spelling is now the correct one.

The plant is a large one, with stout fleshy pseudobulbs and several large pleated leaves. Infloresence is a simple raceme which may attain 100cm in height, and bear up to 30 large (10cm) shapely blooms. It is a species which has evolved as a bog dweller, and I always found it in areas which were shady, around 70% shade, and subject to flooding for at least a few months each year, remaining cool and moist for the rest of the year. In cultivation it is easy, needing a largish container as it grows, with a rich compost.

Large plants only become so if ample food is available, Phaius tankervilleae loves food while in growth. The addition of such things such as 'Blood and Bone', bone meal,chicken pellets etc., to the compost is welcome and additional feeding with such things as slow release fertilizers and dressings of organics will assist growth.

During Spring and Summer containers should be placed in a saucer of water, so that water level is 2 to 3 inches up the pot, which approximates the natural conditions for this species. It does not grow in water, but in soil and compost just above water level when it's habitat is flooded. An added bonus for the grower, is the species speedy multiplication by way of keikei's from spent racemes.

If the spike is removed as soon as flowers fall, cut into sections with at least one eye on each, and the sections planted into spagnum moss or some such, a high proportion of the eyes will develop into plantlets which may be potted on as they grow.

This species probably has the most spectacular and beautiful flower of any Australian native, and every grower should have a couple of plants.

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Elanbee Orchids