I am sitting in my basement typing away on my laptop surrounded by my orchids. They got moved inside last night. Thankfully a fan is blasting over me and the plants. I can here you saying that 'Chuckie, you have gone absolutely crazy'. Well in the words of our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd 'extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures'.
You see, at the moment the temperatures outside are just over 43C (110F). Last week we had similar and higher temperatures for three days in a row. Needless to say all sorts of organisms suffered. Animals, including humans, were dying, plants were dying, and dust storms were blanketing everything. Today is even worse as they predict it will get to 44C or higher (112F). with winds of 50-90 Kilometres per hour. Our community fire guard phone tree was activated earlier today and we just got notification that there are two fires 10k northwest of us. The winds are blowing out of the northwest!!!
The orchids had a particularly hard time. Not all of them though. Many of the Cymbidiums lived through with little more than losing the odd leaf or two. Some others did not fare as well. Below are some pictures of the worst of the casualties. My friends on the Cymbidium Forum wanted to see the 'devastation' . Well to feed their morbid curiosity, the camera was pulled out and a different kind of picture taken! I hope you enjoy these George! Stop gloating that you have such nice weather in your part of the world.
The first picture is of a beautiful little cloud-forest plant called Maxillaria sophronites. It is normally a pretty tough little plant. Interestingly, it didn't scorch in the heat but basically 'cooked' . All of the plant tissues first blanched, like brocolli in a steamer, and then turned these lovely shades of brown. It is heading toward the compost bin. The second photo is the usually magnificant Maxillaria fletcherianum. The plant did have half a dozen fully-leaved pseudobulbs and flower spikes starting to form. It now only has two severely burnt leaves on the very youngest growth. Very sad.
The worst affected plants were the Masdevallias. These mostly cloud forest plants without much in the way of water reserves, literally curled up their toes. All but two plants in my Masdevallia collection are dead. Maxillaria triangularis, pictured below, gives you some indication of what the rest of my Masdevallias look like. They are now the most expensive compost you can think of.
While the majority of the cymbidiums fared pretty well, some did not. Below is a picture of what was a mature plant of Cym. iansonii. Not only did the leaves cook, but the pseudobulbs also steamed to the point of blanching. While some plants had burnt tips, this species cooked from the inside out! The leaves stayed green longer than the pseudobulbs. The leaves on these cooked pseudobulbs shed a few days later and the new growth that at first appeared green rotted from the base upward! The ends of the leaves are green but the bases are completely black.
A couple of the Cymbidium devonianum hybrids responded in a very peculiar way. Instead of pseudobulbs cooking or leaves getting burnt tips individual cells withing the leaf bleached. Not all of the cells but a scattering of cells. And not on the young growth, only on the older leaves. Very strange. Below is a picture of Cymbidium Devon Odyssey exhibiting the mottled cell bleaching induced by heat.
The wierdiest of the heat damage is this living but bleached tissue. Not hot enough to kill the cell but enough to blast the chloroplasts.
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