Monday, January 11, 2010

World’s largest orchid Grammatophyllum speciosum flowers at Bramston Beach in Australia

Bramston Beach and Ella Bay both have some wonderful native orchid species growing in the wild.

Of course there is the beautiful Golden Orchid Dendrobium discolor.
And if you know where to look the rare lutino form of golden orchid, the canary yellow Dendrobium discolor variety broomfieldii.
Then there’s interesting orchids like the spider orchid Dendrobium tetragonum variety giganteum.
There are also endangered species like the beautiful Swamp orchid Phaius tankervilleae.
And the endangered blue orchid Dendrobium nindii.
But I’m not focussed on these great native plants today as I want to introduce you to the largest orchid species in the world Grammatophyllum speciosum commonly known as the tiger or giant orchid.

This exotic plant is not native to Australia but seems very happy growing as a garden plant here!

To be honest my plant is a baby when you consider that this species can weigh well over a tonne in the wild. It’s about 15 years old and this is its second flowering (and yes I am very patient at times).

Orchid had this to say about Grammatophyllum speciosum.

A large epiphyte and occasional lithophyte occuring in lowland forests near streams and rivers at elevations of 100 to 1200 meters in Myanamar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Borneo, Java, Moluccas, the Philippines, Sulawesi, Sumatra, Bismark Islands, Papua and New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and is recorded to be the heaviest orchid in the world and is capable of becoming huge in cultivation.

They have erect to spreading, very long, cylindric, yellowish with age, many ridged and noded pseudobulbs enveloped completely by leafless and leaf-bearing sheaths and carrying thin textured, distichous, linear or ovate, obtuse or acute, decurved in apical half leaves that are articulated to the basal leaf sheaths and blooms in the fall and early winter as well as in the summer and have a 4 to 10 foot [120 to 300 cm] long, basal, erect to arching, racemose, many flowered inflorescence that carry 30 to 50 sometimes fragrant, waxy, successively opening, long-lasting flowers with the lowest flowers being imperfect and distant.

This species has erect,spreading or drooping psuedobulbs that can be up to 3 meters long and leaves that go well up the stem giving them more of a palm tree look. Can be slow to bloom, plants need to be large and have a lot of backbulbs and even still the orchid can be sporadic, at best, to bloom. This species is often found in conjunction with ants and may benefit from their presence.

Thank you orchid and you can check out some of their photos here.

Back to my plant an interesting feature of this species is the way its first few flowers are always malformed.
At the beginning its single flower spike was nothing to write home about. This photo was taken on 11 December 2009.
By 24 December 2009 it was starting to look quite handsome.
By 2 January 2010 it was really looking good
And today I think I will call it quits with photographing this plant!
Oh before I go here is a little photo of the plant with a bucket next to it for scale!
When it gets as big as the giant 2-ton plant displayed in crystal palace in 1851 I will really have something to blog about!

Cheers Russ

Ps please note I have used commonly used older scientific names for many of the native orchids as anyone who looks them up further on the net or in books will have half a chance that way!


  1. It looks about the size of a small cargo jet in that first shot! Stunning flowers.

    I'm looking forward to some of the native epiphytic orchids flowering here so I can get an idea of what they are, but I'm a bit worried that the long hot dry might have done for them. :(

  2. Thanks snail and you're right it looks huge!

    I'm amazed you have orchids on any of your trees with the amount of tree kangaroos you seem to have up that way clambering all over them!

    If you get stuck for any identifications give me a holler as Australian native epiphytic orchids are something I know a bit about.

  3. Interesting post, Russell.
    To be honest I am more interested in the Aussie Native Orchids, but that huge plant is quite remarkable.
    I have added you to my little list of Aussie Nature Bloggers.
    The world needs more Native Orchid enthusiasts.

  4. Thank you Denis. I have visted your wonderful site in the past and just had a quick peek at your recent orchid posts.Anyone reading this reply who has an interest in native orchids would be smart to click on your name above and check out your orchid posts (over 100).
    Some terrific photographs especially of some of the terrestrial species which we don't see much in the North...nice work Denis!
    I hope to slip in a few native orchid stories in future as I am a native orchid man through and through...cattleyas are cabbages in my books...I'd rather have an Aussie thumbnail or pencil orchid any day!

  5. That is an impressive looking orchid! (first photo especially).

    We are fans of a British show called Midsomer Murders. We have bought a few series for ourselves to watch at our leisure. One such case (episode) was about orchid growers and a particular rare orchid. I know it is just a fictional program, but I was amazed by it all the same. I think there are some very passionate orchid growers out there that live and breathe these things lol. Such is the beauty and allure of these flowers/plants.

  6. I agree that 99% of orchid growers are fanatics! I have grown and studied orchids for over 20 years and they still amaze me. I must say these days I get the most joy from observing and photographing the in the wild!

  7. Dear Russ, found your blog looking for the giant orchid I have growing in a pot in my car port in Phuket Thailand,and realised happily that it's name is the same as my friends e-mail address! Just did not realise and trivia of course. I was actually after the flower and as much as local gardener tried to help I just had to Google and came upon you! Thanks for great and informative text and pictures - I now know what to spend the next fifteen years looking for!! Have been told it's very pricey but I think I remember getting mine very reasonably...if you are interested I'll happily send some pics of my somewhat modest collection, but would prefer email as have no site. Thanks again, all the best, Sofia

  8. Sorry if I repeat myself - think my post vanished! Just wanted to say thanks for great info I found searching for flowers for my large orchid in my car port in Phuket Thailand. Have also recommended some from the Philippines! All the best, Sofia


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