THE GENUS BARKERIA
By John Hale
I was first attracted to these beautiful plants six or seven years ago when I saw some magnificent specimens displayed at the Newbury Orchid Show. As yet I have not attained the quality of those plants which had formed large clumps with multiple flower spikes. There are usually 4 or 5 flowers per spike on the Barkeria spectabilis types, many more on the longer caned varieties such as Barkeria skinneri. The delicate and handsome flowers vary between pink, mauve and white and are often peppered with well-defined spots. It is a pity they are not seen more often at shows.
Barkeria’s originate from Central America in deciduous forests at around 1500 metres, require intermediate conditions and are best grown on pieces of cork bark. They like good light through most of the year with some shading necessary in the height of summer. Good air movement and plenty of humidity with a winter rest are also essential. These plants will not tolerate soggy pot conditions, especially during the winter months. If you prefer pot culture choose a terracotta pot and support the plant with only a few very large pieces of bark and be vigilant regarding spraying and humidity levels. In the growing season Barkeria appreciate a reasonable amount of fertiliser but as with all aerial rooted plants one has to find an acceptable level so as not to burn the roots. In the wild plants are usually deciduous but in greenhouse conditions this is less likely, mine certainly are not and by the end of winter often get to look a bit bedraggled. The leaves on many of the plants are quite soft and thus prone to attack by pests - spider mite, slugs and snails can all do a lot of damage, sometimes in just a single night.
These articles are produced by the Society's members and other local experts detailing their experiences with growing their orchid collections.
There will be photos and regular updates.