I create “living vivariums”, both for customers at work and for my own poison arrow frogs. I recently got a little orchid plant to add to my own vivarium, but I can’t find what species it is. I also can’t find any way to identify the various orchid species (and from there, find information on care), without having to muck through a ridiculous number of sites spewing the same generic info.

So I’m asking if anyone knows of, or can find, a good source of info on orchids and orchid species, including how to identify specific species (the specific latin name, not the common name) and how to care for a specific species.

A similar site for bromeliads (identification and species-specific care) would be pretty awesome too.


I am an amateur orchid grower, but I have some books.
What does it look like?
My first guess would be a jewel orchid from Black Jungle.

Meanwhile, try these guys.

Is the orchid in flower? If not, I would think it would be nearly impossible to identify it to species level, since the non-flowering parts of many orchids are very similar.

*Orchids for Everyone * from Gallery books is a rather nice volume. As orchids are rather easy to hybridize, there is a good chance you do not in fact have a species. There are more named cultivars than species, BTW.

Why do orchids stay in flower so long? Ours lasted about 3 months-of course, the cycle is very long (between flowering).

The plants desire to reproduce is very strong and expensive use of resources. If left unpollinated, the flowers will hang on as long as possible. Try pollinating one one next time it blooms. Orchids tend to coevolve with specific pollinators that are unlikely to live in your living room. A toothpick and a deft touch will allow you to impersonate one, however.That flower will wither quickly as the embryos begin to develop.
Furthermore, the orchids most of are likely to tend have been crossed and selected for chracteristics such as longevity and floral display. Species are often less spectacular, but may frequently have stronger scents.

Thanks for the info!

I don’t have a camera to take a picture (which would be easiest), but the plant is indeed in flower. It has waxy green leaves, and at the base of the plant it’s almost like a bulb - at the least, the stem is very, very thick. The flower itself is a pretty violet purple color, with the inner 1/4 fading to a pale pale almost-white purple. The inner part is a dark, rich purple, with the bottom half of the tube-like bit being a little flared and ruffled. The outer petals of the flower are smooth and waxy, like the leaves.

I think it is a hybrid, because the label it came with just said ‘summer dreams’, while some of the other nearby plants had latin names.

My frogs seem to like it, at least. About how long does it usually take for an orchid to start showing signs of being overwatered?

And I keep reading bits about fertilizing, but I’m extremely hesitant to use commercial fertilizer around my frogs. Aside from frog poop, is there any kind of fertilizer I could use that would be nontoxic? What’re the ingredients in the fertilizer that are so important for the orchids?

Thanks again for the input!

Most orchids don’t like being wet all the time. Many live in trees, get drenched in the rain and then completely dry out for a while. Be sure the roots don’t rot. Can you pot it so that it will drain?
I don’t know about fertilizer.

I will second that call for drainage. Most orchids will want zero water retention in their media.
Commercial fertilizers deliver their nutrients in forms of salt. If you think salty toads would be a problem, Planet Natural has a large array of organic fertilizers on their online catalog.

Kuboydal, would something mounted on a slab be appropriate for a terrarium?

If you have an epiphytic orchid hanging on a slab or bark, terrariums become ideal places for the plants. They generally favor high humidity and filtered sunlight. As the family is quite vast and represented on every continent save Antarctica, I hesitate to make too many generaliztions.

I’ve actually taken the orchid out of the original potting medium and mounted it, bare root, onto a piece of corkbark that’s sitting directly above some live moss. It gets misted at least once a day, usually twice, so far it doesn’t seem to mind…but I also don’t know much about orchid happiness. Every other plant in the terrarium is thriving so far (including the tillandsias) so I’m hoping the orchid will thrive too.

Salty frogs is bad, sadly. I’ll look around for some organic fertilizer, but would it really be so terrible not to fertilize the orchid?

“Summer Dream” is the name of a Brassia variety which looks nothing like your description. Could the tag have gotten tucked into the wrong plant?

The description sounds kind of like a Cattleya or Cattleya hybrid, actually.

I wouldn’t mist so much. Here is a link about roots and water.

I have to mist that often for the frogs’ sake. The tillandsias, which like it physically dry but with high humidity, are thriving (and flowering!) in the terrarium, so I’d think the orchid should be okay?
My orchid isn’t in a pot, it’s bare rooted and attached to a piece of corkbark.

I got the little orchid at a local farmer’s market from a nice fellow who told me that setting up the orchid without the pot in the vivarium would be great. He also had a bunch of plants that had common names, not latin. He brought a whole tray of short orchids last week after I’d asked him the week before if he had any that would fit in a 20" tall cage. :slight_smile:

JayJay, the inner part of the flower looks just like that picture you linked, but the outer petals are smooth and round, like the moth orchids, except purple, not white. I think it is a hyrbrid of some sort after all.