• Orchid Muse

A Tour of the UW Superior Greenhouse

Updated: Apr 20, 2018

Our regional Northland Orchid Society recently toured the University of Wisconsin-Superior greenhouse. Robbye, the greenhouse manager, has a passion for orchids and an artist's eye for displaying UWS's many plants. We visited in mid-April, just after a record-setting blizzard. What a lovely way to reassure ourselves that spring is indeed on the way!

The greenhouse touts many specimen-sized orchids, as well as teeny-tiny species orchids. (The orchid above did not have a tag--I'm guessing an encyclia?--and was about 4 feet tall!) I was amazed at how many orchids were blooming at once. But perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised: the greenhouse has four different but connected rooms, and each had slightly different environments.

This Dendrobium anosmum (above) was just past its peak, and in the early evening, still smelled of sweet raspberries. The intergeneric brassia below showed us its full spidery glory. Unfortunately, after a long winter, the greenhouse had a significant infestation of mealy bugs--can you spot one waving at you on the lip of the brassia below? Hopefully, with spring coming, open windows and beneficial predators can wipe out those fluffy invaders.

Perhaps the most amazing sight in the greenhouse, however, was not an orchid. It was this astounding Tillandsia duratii (below). It glowed like seafoam in the fading light, and its cascading curls were truly Rapunzel-esque. What a statement piece! This girl deserves a spot on Project Runway!

There were several smaller, but no less inspiring plants as well--like the Dendrobium anceps below. I have had this orchid in my collection for several months now and it hasn't bloomed. I see now that the freely blooming Den. anceps in the UW-Superior greenhouse is strongly yellow, an indication of the much higher light it receives, compared to its deep-green orchid sibling in my home.

This Phragmipedium pearcei (below) was also inspiring--I bought a sick little seedling some time ago and it hasn't fared well. Robbye's little guy, now in spike, has encouraged me to keep trying with my own--as well as perhaps invest in a healthy, larger specimen when one comes across my path.

Other amazing plant interludes included a huge variety of nepenthes, tillandsias, succulents, and miniature trees. The bromeliads (below) glowed like stained glass in the changing light of sunset. Robbye keeps a table of free plants, as well--I was lucky enough to pick up a bromeliad pup that is mostly mossy green, but with stippled red tips and a deep red outline to its leaves.

Now, if you've hunted around my website, you can probably sense that I have another growing botanical interest: nepenthes and other predatory plants. The UWS greenhouse had plenty to drool over! Check out the hairy pitchers on the one below!




OK, back to the orchids. One of the other impressive things about the UWS greenhouse was the number of mounted orchids it contained, creating a layered visual effect. The Psychopsis limminghei below was not in bloom, but its growth habit, color variation, and mounted display here were lovely nonetheless.

With the images above and below, you can also see that this greenhouse takes special interest in cute, petite orchids--this Howeara Lava Burst 'Puanani' put on a little show for us (below).

Again, the mounted miniature orchids here were breathtaking at times--like the Oncidium longipes below. They make me want to install a green living wall in my home and cover it with tiny floriferous friends.

One final orchid to lust after was brought in by a society member--and sadly was only for show, not for sale. I've had Leptotes bicolor on my orchid wishlist for a long while now, and this little guy, with his spiky foliage and scent of deep roses, was very hard to put down.

A very good time was had by all, I believe, and UW Superior's greenhouse was filled with inspirational displays and lovingly-tended orchids. It was a wonderful way to shake off the late-winter blues in the magical early twilight.

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