Bulbophyllum barbigerum, the bearded bulbophyllum, is a miniature, warm to cool-growing species from Africa. B. barbigerum grows in the tree tops in its native habitat, and we also grow it mounted which shows off its bright green, slightly flattened pseudobulbs. Flowers are super funky: dark and hairy with crazy bobbing structures. Jay Phal says that he was told, “in the 1700’s this plant was put forward as a missing link between plant and animal, it moves, wiggles, jerks, and bobs. Looks as if it could talk.” It also smells like a stinky caveman, so there’s even more evidence!
Bulbophyllum is currently considered the most diverse genus of orchids with over 1500 species described. Bulbophyllums are found in all tropical areas on Earth, and they are as diverse morphologically as they are geographically. Though named for their bulbous leaves, all Bulbophyllums share some common flower characteristics including a hinged column which causes part of the flower to jiggle or bob. The better to lure in pollinators! Speaking of which, many bulbos are pollinated by flies–flies that are attracted to things that look and/or smell, um… dead. So approach bulbophyllum flowers with a cautious nose.
Bulbophyllums are easy to grow. They like to stay moist, and most of them like warm temperatures. We grow ours in intermediate (winter) to hot (summer) conditions. Similarly, they grow well in intermediate light although they can tolerate low light conditions, too (you will see fewer flowers). I have found increased success since growing mine in a closed tray with a little water standing in the bottom for those in pots. For plants in baskets, water frequently and from all sides. Bulbos enjoy regular fertilizer (I use a slow release and occasional additional fertilizer by spray), and may be potted in bark, moss, or a combination of the two. Because they have short roots, baskets or shallow pots work best for these guys.