Dendrobium tarberi (or Dendrobium speciosum var. hillii)

Dendrobium tarberi, in situ, high in a tree, Lamington National Park

Years before I thought growing orchids was a cool hobby, I took this image of a King Orchid (Dendrobium tarberi, also known as Thelychiton tarberi) in situ (growing in the wild). Truth be told I’ve always been interested in wild flora and fauna. When I picked up a digital SLR camera in early 2009 I soon directed it at any interesting I came across while bushwalking or travelling. The above image was captured in the Lamington National Park, Queensland, at the O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk at an elevation of 900 metres (3000 feet). This tree top walk was the first of its kind in Australia and allows one to climb as high as 30 metres (100 feet) into a giant strangler fig tree. The view at the top provides a great vantage point to survey the subtropical rainforest canopy with all its huge variety of epiphytes that provide a rich ecosystem high above the ground. If you’ve grown up watching Attenborough documentaries, this place makes you feel like you’re in one.

Dendrobium tarberi (formally known as Dendrobium speciosum var. hillii) grows mainly as an epiphyte in rainforests and wet eucalypt forests of northern New South Wales and south east Queensland, Australia. It’s a hardy plant withstanding winter temperatures near freezing in winter and searing summer sun perhaps broken only by some of the tree’s crown. Humidity in it’s natural habitat is high for much of the year, however, precipitation (rainfall) is substantially higher during the warmer months (October to April) when the south easterly trade winds blow moisture from the nearby Coral or Tasman Seas. In most of its natural range rainfall is around 1000-2000 mm (39-78 inches) per year depending on the location and elevation.

Perhaps this plant did not flower the year or maybe I missed it that year as flowering time is usually August to October (Southern Hemisphere spring). You can see from the top photo the pseudobulbs on this orchid grow quite large, up to 1m (3’3″) in length. Before I can add one of these plants to my collection I need to work out where I might keep it. At present my little shade house might fit a young Dendrobium tarberi but not a mature one. They can be grown mounted or in pots with a typically coarse Dendrobium mix (usually medium or large bark depending on the size of the plant) often with added charcoal and clay pellets. They grow best in bright light similar to other Dendrobiums or Cattleyas.

Subtropical rainforest, Lamington National Park, Qld, Australia.

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