Variety Abounds at the Rockhampton Spring 2021 Orchid Show

This Phalaenopsis hybrid with the long name Phal. Memoria Sarah Robertson x Phal. Chain Xen Pearl was grown by T. & M. Handley and won first prize in Class 6.01 for Phalaenopsis, standard shape, bloom size over 90mm. It was also a class champion runner-up.

Australia’s southernmost tropical city, Rockhampton in Central Queensland, has just concluded its Spring 2021 Orchid Show. This annual event is not a large show by international standards, but there was a wide variety of high-quality flowering orchids on display.

Rockhampton is just inside the Tropic of Capricorn, so its climate is a mix of tropical and sub-tropical.  What this means for orchid growers is that many species of tropical orchids that won’t flower in the warmer tropical lowlands further north (because the temperature range between day and night is not wide enough) can be flowered successfully in Rockhampton.


Central Queensland is also much dryer than the more humid wet tropical region of Far North Queensland, so Rockhampton growers get the best of both worlds in being able to grow both tropical and sub-tropical species and hybrids. That’s why there was such a big variety of orchids on display, the President of the Rockhampton Orchid Society, Jeff Bloxsom, told me.

The perfectly formed blooms of Paphiopedilum esquirolei which took out the Grand Champion prize at this year’s show. It was grown by K. & R. Smith and also won first prize in the Best Exotic Species and Paphiopedilum categories.

The Grand Champion orchid of this year’s show was a magnificent specimen of Paphiopedilum esquirolei which originates from the highland regions around northern Thailand, northern Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. Some might describe this as a rare orchid, but as show organiser Jeff Glover informed me, rarity in the orchid world is subjective because what’s rare in some regions may be relatively common in others.

According to the IOSPE, Paphiopedilum esquirolei is an herbaceous humus epiphytic species found on steep north-east facing slopes above limestone caves between 800 and 1800 metres elevation, but other sources suggest that it’s also been found growing as a lithophyte (on rocks) and terrestrially.

There were quite a few other species of Paphiopedilum on display and winning prizes, as well as some magnificent specimens of Dendrobium and Cattleya species and hybrids. The ever-popular Phalaenopsis genera was well represented too along with many colourful intergeneric hybrids.

Most of the orchids pictured in this feature were prize-winning orchids, but there are some I have included simply because they were among my personal favourites.

Let’s start by having a look at some of the Cattleyas and related intergeneric hybrids because these are the orchids that tend to appeal most to those without any expertise in growing orchids, simply because they are so showy.

Cattleya amethystoglossa is a bifoliate species that is common in Brazil, but it’s one of my favourites because it has a lovely fragrance.
This Cattleya Aloha Case won first prize for Jennifer Scott in Class 1.02 for Laeliinae, standard shape, over 110mm, predominantly mauve/pink shades.
Another beautiful and showy Cattleya is this C. Hawaiian Attraction. It has a very large flower.
The flowers on this Cattleya Hsinying Cognac x Guaricattonia Why Not are much smaller but have a beautiful rich colour.
This beautiful Cattlianthe grown by R. Jenkins won first prize in Class 1.09 for Laeliinae, cluster, not less than 5 blooms per stem. It’s named Ctt. Trick or Treat.
The second prize winner in Class 1.09 was this striking hybrid named Ctt. Aussie Sunset x Ctt. Fire Gem grown by J. & S. Frisch.
Another Cattlianthe which made a colourful display in a hanging pot was this Ctt. Fire Gem ‘Capricorn’s Topline’.
In the Rhyncattleanthe genus this Rth. Shinfong Little Sun made an attractive display on the tables.
Rhyncholaeliocattleya is a nothogenus of orchids that are known for their spectacular flowers, and this Rlc. Chief Journey didn’t disappoint.
Equally stunning was this Rlc. Rungnapha Fancy which was my personal favourite in this category of orchids.
Another Rhyncholaeliocattleya in colours that have traditionally been popular for corsages was this Rlc. Redland Trader.
In similar but more mauve colours, this Rth. Twenty Four Carat x Rlc. Donna Kimura with its many blooms made for an impressive display.
A particularly eye-catching bloom on the tables was this colourful Meloara Ching Sun Bright Star which is a cross between Mel. Tzeng-Wen Tricia and Rlc. Shinfong Honey.

The Cattleyas weren’t the most represented genera at the show. That honour belonged to the Dendrobiums of which there were some magnificent specimens on display.

Several growers entered their flowering Dendrobium lindleyi but this beautiful specimen in a hanging basket was judged the best of the entries.
Another impressive Dendrobium species was this Den. amethystoglossum which is native to the cooler highlands of the northern Philippines.
Another eye-catching Dendrobium species was this Den. faciferum which comes from the lowlands of Indonesia’s Sulawesi provinces and Lesser Sunda Islands.
This beautiful nobile type Dendrobium hybrid called Love Memory won a second prize in its class with its abundant flowers.
Another nobile type is this colourful Dendrobium Star Sapphire which was grown by J. & S. Frisch was also a prize winner.
Equally impressive with its abundant flowers and compact form is this Dendrobium hybrid called Den. Xmas Chime x Den. Isochidori.
Dendrobium Yogogimi is a 1975 hybrid of Den. Hatuharu x Den. Oborozuki and is considered one of the classic nobile types.
This Dendrobium Mousmee produced an eye-catching infloresence with delicately formed and beautifully coloured flowers.
Equally delicate are the flowers of this Dendrobium Phil’s Candy which is a new hybrid of Den. Candy Cane x Den. Gerald McCraith.
Dendrobium Keiki Chip is a relatively new hybrid from Hawaii and is a cross between Den. Micro Chip and Den. Little Atro.

Let’s go back and have a look at some of the other Paphiopedilum orchids on display as this was one of the most well-represented genera at the show. They are commonly known as slipper orchids because of their prominent pouch, but orchid growers usually refer to them simply as “paphs”.

Although there were some excellent specimens of Paph species on display such as Paph. rothschildianum and Paph. philippinense on the tables, it was the hybrids that won the prizes.

This Paph. Alkate’s Midnight Equinox was one of the prize winners in its class. This striking orchid is a new cross between Paph. Kemp Tower and Paph. Adductum.
The large flower of this Paph. Matchless turned a few heads. It’s an old hybrid from 1943 and is a cross between Paph. Festivity and Paph. Wargrave.
There were nine blooms on this impressive Paph primary hybrid called Imperial Jade. It is a cross between two species – Paph. stonei and Paph. Primulinum.
Another large flower that was striking in appearance was on this Paph. Devil’s Canyon. This is a 1977 hybrid from a cross between Paph. John Hanes and Paph. Bonheure.

The other genus that was well represented after the Dendrobiums was the ever-popular Phalaenopsis. This genus is found naturally in both tropical and sub-tropical climates and it’s a popular genus with growers throughout the world because of their long-lasting flowers.

In the tropics many Phalaenopsis species require a cool house to bring them into flower because daytime temperatures about 25 or 26 degrees can inhibit flowering, but growers in the Rockhampton region on the edge of the tropics don’t have that problem.

The Class Champion prize for Phalaenopsis orchids was awarded to R. Jenkins for this Phal. Lark Song. The flowers on this hybrid can last for up to three months.
The flowers of this Phal. Fuller’s Pink Stripe are very striking. This hybrid is a cross between Phal. Fuller’s Pink Swallow and Phal. Fuller’s Black Stripe.
A delicate-looking flower with more subtle markings is produced by this Phal. Liu’s Fantasy – a cross between Phal. Be Glad and Phal. Timothy Christopher.
Another hybrid with striking flowers is this Phal. Younghome New York which is a cross between Phal. Fuller’s Maiden and Phal. Luchia Lip.

There was a wide variety of other genera on display at the show to which the images below will attest. What was consistent throughout the show was the high quality. Many of the prize-winning orchids at the Rockhampton show were as good as I’ve seen at international shows.

Among the prize-winners in the other genera was this beautiful grex Clowesetum Alexandra Savva which is a cross between Clowesia Rebecca Northern and Catasetum denticulatum.
Another prize-winner in the Catasetum genera was this Ctsm. saccatum x Ctsm. saccatum. This species originates from tropical montane forests in South America.
The first prize winner in Class 2.01 for Vandeae, standard shape with bloom size over 70mm was this magnificent V. Fantastic Fanfare x V. Kulwadee Crown grown by Jennifer Scott.
In the Vanda species this excellent specimen of V. tricolor was also grown by Jennifer Scott and won first prize in Class 8.02 for Vandaeae excluding Phalaenopsis.
Another prize winner grown by Jennifer Scott was this beautiful Ansellia africana, an orchid species from tropical Africa that was identified way back in 1844.
And yet another grown by Jennifer Scott: this Oncidium Pacific Space Lustre is a cross between Onc. sphacetante and Onc. Illustre.
Commonly known as the jewel orchid, Ludsia discolor is grown for the beauty of its leaves as much as it is for its flowers.
Brassia Rex is a spectacular primary hybrid of two species in the Brassia genus (Brs. verrucose x Brs. gireoudiana).
Arpophyllum giganteum is not often seen in the tropics because it prefers warm temperate climates.

All images: © David Astley

Editor’s note: David Astley was the photographer for the popular book ‘The Essential Guide to Growing Orchids in the Tropics’ by Dr. Chia Tet Fatt published in 2012 by Marshall Cavendish International. The 2nd edition of the book is now available from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide.



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