My rare Sandy Point Orchid is blooming

Two years ago, I was so excited to bring home a Sandy Point Orchid hybrid from the annual St Croix Orchid Society show at the St George Village Botanical Garden. It’s taken two years of loving care and an enormous amount of patience (not my strong suit), but it’s finally blooming! It’s appropriate timing as the Orchid Show “Orchids Galore in ’24” happens this coming weekend.

There are over 1400 species of orchids throughout the Caribbean and nine are native to St Croix. When I purchased mine at the orchid show, it wasn’t in bloom. I was informed that because they are protected  and currently listed as “nearly threatened” on the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature), that only hybrid Sandy Orchids were allowed to be sold. So, I had no idea what to expect from the blooms – it would be a total surprise!

Back in October 2023, a full 4 months ago, my Sandy Point Orchid hyrid- also known as an Island Peacock Orchid (Psychilis macconnelliae)  – started to grow a flower spike, technically called an inflorescence. Almost over night, it was about 10 inches long. So, of course I thought blooms were just around the corner. I waited. And waited. And waited some more. And that flower spike kept on growing to about 3 feet!

from my @MyStCroix Instagram Story back in October 2023!

A couple of weeks ago, it started to show signs of buds and then I got really excited. And now, one of those buds has finally bloomed! I did a little happy dance and marveled at the delicate beauty and the vibrant colors. It’s become my favorite orchid for sure!

Sandy Point Orchid Hybrid

A Unique and Endemic Sandy Point Orchid

From what I understand, the Sandy Point Orchid resembles other similar species of Island Peacock Orchids that can be found in Puerto Rico, and on other nearby islands including Culebra, Vieques, and the BVI. But this gorgeous, delicate terrestrial orchid is endemic to St Croix, meaning it grows wild nowhere else in the world but here!

Its common name comes from its exclusive habitat along the Sandy Point peninsula in Frederiksted. It grows in thickets near the beach. Supposedly, you’ll find it blooming in shaded areas and even peeking through cracks in the salt-washed rocks. I may have to add hiking and searching for these on my next weekend trip to Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge.

The Sandy Point orchid has long thin stems that can grow several feet tall. While the flowers are petite, they are absolutely exquisite. And my hybrid is really vibrant. I just love it!

This orchid is a perennial bloomer, flowering mainly from March to June during the drier spring months. Its light color helps reflect heat and keeps the plant cooler.

Unfortunately, the Sandy Point orchid has become rare due to habitat loss from development, grazing livestock over the years, and hurricanes. As a small island endemic, its risks are amplified. In fact, it is estimated that only around 250 of these orchids remain growing in the wild today, exclusively on the western end of St. Croix. Conservation efforts are underway to propagate and protect them thanks to the St Croix Orchid Society and the St Croix Botanical Garden.

Orchid enthusiasts, like me, can add hybrid Sandy Point orchids to their collections. Because mine wasn’t marked when I purchased it – I’m not sure what it was crossed with. What I can say enthusiastically, it is beautiful and was well worth the wait. Don’t you think?!

Native St Croix Orchids

There are nine species of orchids that are native to St Croix. Due to development and habitat destruction, they aren’t readily found.

  • Sandy Point Orchid (Psychilis macconnelliae) – The rarest and most endangered, found wild only in the Sandy Point wildlife refuge.
  • Christmas Orchid (Epidendrum ciliare) – Named for its winter blooming season around Christmas. Has small green flowers with reddish spots.
  • Cockleshell Orchid (Encyclia cochleata) – Identified by its clam-shaped flowers. Threatened by loss of habitat.
  • Butterfly Orchid (Psychilis correllii) – Flowers resemble fluttering butterflies.
  • Greenfly Orchid (Epidendrum prostratum) – Ground dwelling; flowers attract flies to pollinate.
  • Bamboo Orchid (Epidendrum rigidum) – Tall, reed-like stems resemble bamboo sticks.
  • Dingy-flowered Star Orchid (Epidendrum pallidiflorum) – Clusters of tiny greenish-white flowers.
  • Ground Orchid (Liparis liliifolia) – Lily-like leaves; small purple and orange flowers.
  • Lace Orchid (Oeceoclades maculata) – Petite plant with “lacy” motif flowers.

If you’re not here for the St Croix Orchid show, you can view the incredible orchid collections at the St George Village Botanical Garden lovingly tended to by the volunteers of the St Croix Orchid Society.

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