Peristeria elata by Maurie Page
This plant has long been one of my favourites. It is a terrestrial and loves warm growing conditions. It is the national flower of Panama where it grows as a terrestrial in loamy soil and humus pockets among rocks. Cultural notes suggest that it prefers hot conditions with 30-50% light. It grows exceptionally well in North Queensland conditions with little attention to cultural niceties. The plant grows with an enormous egg shaped pseudobulb which on my mature plants have been 12 to 15 cm across and 15 to 20 cm high. The long arching single leaf is about 15 cm wide at the middle tapering at each end. The leaf has many transverse corrugations that remind you of the immature growth on palm leaves.
The flower spike can be two metres in length. The spike emerges from the base of the bulb like a new growth. The flowers are brilliant white and have a hard waxy texture. They are cup shaped and can be 5cm across. If you look through the opening of the flower the column and lip combined is shaped like a dove looking back at you and has reddish spotting. Hence a common name the Dove orchid. These flowers last from three to seven days each and flower consecutively up the spike. My plant has twenty flowers opened or in bud. This should mean a flowering period of two months.
The thing I like most about this orchid is the perfume. In the middle of the day it has a most pleasant heady aroma. It is quite spicy and appealing.
These plants like moist growing conditions. If you can’t provide the warmth it won’t flower. I have found from bitter experience the difficulties in growing in Brisbane. I grow in good quality potting mix. Slugs are particularly fond of the new tips of the large roots. For years I had a mature plant that survived without thriving. I decided to repot and found every new root had a couple of fat juicy slugs suckling on the end. I now take steps to deter the slugs. The plants are susceptible to sunburn. I grow mine under fifty percent shade.