AN EXOTIC orchid housed at a North-East college has started to flower fully for the first time in a decade.

The Stanhopea tigrina, named after the Earl of Stanhope – former President of the Medico-Botanical Society, is native to South America.

Staff at East Durham College’s Houghall campus, near Durham, have had the rare orchid planted in their Butterfly House on an artificial tree for ten years.

It has continued to grow, giving off the odd flower, but this year it has had multiple flowers growing for the first time.

The flowers come in pairs, each about the size of a fist, and are pollinated by a specific kind of iridescent bee. The heavily scented flowers last only a few days each.

The flowering has produced much excitement at Houghall.

Mike Hirst, a horticultural lecturer at Houghall for more than 30 years, said: “It was really impressive.
“In all my years I have never seen a plant of this species in cultivation produce so many flowers.
“The Stanhopea has not flowered here for a number of years and it was exciting to see it produce so many, even though individually they only last two or three days.”