I am unhappy with the re-blooming of my Beallara Marfitch ‘Howards Dream’. The last time it bloomed, it had a dozen or more large purple flowers. Now it only has a few wimpy ones. What happened? Page T.
The old adage “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior” applies not only to humans but also to orchids. Chances are that if a plant has produced a crowd pleasing display for several consecutive years, then it will continue to do so. Genetics play a significant role in long term orchid health and vigor as does the enthusiast’s growing ability. When everything is done correctly and the blooming is still inferior, then it takes a little detective work to figure out the villain.
Occasionally an Oncidium (dancing lady) makes an off season blooming which seems at first glance to be a real dud. But close examination of the flower stem reveals that it didn’t emerge from the base of the newest pseudo-bulb but rather from the top. This preliminary blooming is referred to as the ‘apical stem’ since it comes out of the ‘apex’ of the plant. The flower stem is very narrow and weak, only capable of producing a small number of blooms. The normal blooming, or ‘real inflorescence’, will occur a few months later and is called the ‘basal stem’ since the flower spike emerges from the base. Many Oncidium hybrids exhibit this ‘apex’ blooming trait including the classic yellow Sweet Sugar but the exact reason is not known. Experts conclude that the plant must be so excited to bloom that it can’t wait….
Orchid buffs know that a Beallara is just a fancy name for an Intergeneric Oncidium hybrid that combines four different orchid types – Brassia x Cochlioda x Miltonia x Odontoglossom. It was first registered in 1970 by the now defunct Beall Orchid Co in Seattle WA, thus the name Beallara. The plant looks and acts just like a traditional Oncidium so for all practical purposes, it is an Oncidium.
Normal Oncidium growth habit is as follows….the plant makes a large new leaf (pseudo-bulb) once or twice a year and, when complete, produces a new flower spike. The spike usually makes branches that are covered with buds which open in rapid fire succession. The old growths never bloom again but provide food and water as needed.
Sometimes there is a small opening act, a few teaser blooms….but the headliner is soon to follow.

Something is eating the flowers of my orchids. It looks to me like a snail is busy at night but I stayed up late with a flashlight and found nothing. Do you have an answer to this mystery? Adrienne B
There are not many critters that outright eat orchid flowers. Common tropical plant insects such as aphids, mealy bugs and scale cause minor to moderate damage when attacking in large numbers but are individually too small to consume entire petals.
Full scale devastation can be the work of either herbivorous grasshoppers or caterpillars both of which leave only crumbs in less than an hour. Small rodents such as mice have been known to raise their young in nests made from stolen flowers and buds. But by far the gooiest most revolting experience is that of the slug or large snail.
Every night without exception, these mollusks slither around in search of defenseless orchid flowers to feed on. Finding great delight in munching prized pedigree stud plants on their way to orchid shows, slimy slugs are public enemy #1. They occasionally make daytime appearances on cloudy or rainy days but for the most part are cowardly and nocturnal.
Their greatest strength, slime, is also their greatest weakness. It is the goo that allows them to travel across rugged terrain at full speed and cling upside down to fragile petals. But it is also the goo that gives them away. Like bank robbers who drop dye colored money, slugs leave behind their calling card – a slimy trail. This trail not only identifies them but sometimes leads straight to their daytime hiding place – usually on, under, or inside a pot. Successful Slug Sleuths will return to the site for many nights with an arsenal of flashlights until the vermin is found, then gently disposed of in a cup of soapy water.

Monday, September 1, 2008 - 17:45