Wladyslaw Zaslawski was born in Poland but Brazil is the country of his adoption.  Orchidist since de decade of 50, he decided to found, in 1994, with his son, Aleksandro Zaslawski, the nursery AWZ Orchids, in the state of Espírito Santo, with greenhouses in two different climates. One in Viana, at 300m altitude for cultivating plants which need warm conditions and the other one Pedra Azul, at 1.100m altitude. Wladyslaw and Aleksandro, more orchid lovers than tradesmen, dedicate almost their whole time, to maintain their own collection and the commercial nursery. Great experts in Brazilian habitats, they talk us about their journeys to visit orchids in the nature.

ON: Wladyslaw, when and how have you started to cultivate orchids?
WZ: My parents and I had just come to Brazil and we used to live in a small place called Santa Lúcia, in Vitória, Espírito Santo. By this time, there was much more "green" than nowadays and, behind our home, in the middle of the wood, there was a rock was a blooming plant. Later I learnt it was a Cattleya guttata. I have never seen it in my whole life, where can we find it in Europe? Nowhere. This called my attention, I got this plant, I cultivated it, then I got another, then another and so on. This plant that I discovered blooming in March 1953 is still here, in Viana, alive and healthy.

ON: Although you speak Portuguese without accent, you are Polish.
WZ: I am Brazilian but I was born in Poland and come here without speaking a word in Portuguese.

ON: So you have 52 years of cultivation. You started your commercial nursery by this time?
WZ: No, I worked as an engineer at the "Companhia Vale do Rio Doce" where I stayed for 33 years and I have also been a teacher at the Federal University for 25 years. I retired in 1991, with an excellent expertise in railways engineering and, thus, I was asked to be adviser in this field of action. Alek, my son, he also is a mechanics engineer and I found a company to work in this domain. For  4 or 5 years, we worked as railways advisers through Brazil for the big companies. When the Railways Network and the Companhia Vale do Rio Doce became private, they got out from a bad situation but they didn't come to nothing better in the free enterprise. The Railways Network has been separated and the regions have been sold, the companies which bought all of this have just interest in to make use of their own branches, they make efforts to improve the transports according to their own needs. Those railways didn't have much interest in development. Do you know Esopo' s fable, when the animals join themselves to the cart and decided to pull it? There were a donkey, a swan e a fish. When they were about to go out, the swan wanted to fly, the donkey want to eat the grass and the fish saw the water and wanted to jump and the cart didn't move. In my point of view, there was nothing in terms of improving the national railways network, nothing happened. Thus we couldn't go on giving advisers and we decide to close the doors.

ON: So you decided to open the commercial nursery?
WZ: In 1994, 95, as Alek also likes orchids very much, I asked him to be my partner. All along those 50 years of cultivation, I had gathered an extensive collection of native orchids, not only Brazilian but also from another countries. I always looked for standing out by the qualities of the plants concerning forms and colors among another characteristics. I had good species, good varieties but not only this. My collection had at about 20.000 plants coming from around the world. But, before this, in 1991, due to the difficulties to obtain species because they are rare or because the habitats gradually disappear or also because some of them were foreigner and difficult to get here, we decided to reproducing many species from the collection in our own laboratory.
AZ: Our aim is to supply orchids species of high lineage since the matrixes are plants selected along all those years. Our whole production is made in our unique and specific laboratory for this aim in the state of Espírito Santo. It is outfitted with all modern and necessary equipments which allowed us to reach the productions of healthy and vigorous plants with exportation standard.

ON: Even before having your commercial nursery, you had your own laboratory?
WZ: Yes, I loved this research, I liked to develop but Alek and I have improved the laboratory. It started in Pedra Azul, we did it together but, in fact, all this is much more Alek's work than mine

ON: And you, Alek, how did you get involved with orchids?
AZ: I always loved to go along with my father to the habitats and since I was a kid I have been strolling across the greenhouse.
ZW: He always comes with me, and, by the way, not only with orchids, he is an excellent railways engineer, we gave advisement in the same level of the people coming from USA, Canada. And people have learnt many things with us. So when we did this turn, we haven't much trouble. He is loving doing this.

ON: You look so passionately fond of orchids as your father.
AZ: I always loved to keep him company mainly in the excursions, I found it cool, I always loved the nature, I've never thought about dealing with orchids in the level. It was for fun, it was my father's hobby which I followed during the trips. But there was the engineering I studies, I graduated and started to work in mechanics engineering and suddenly, there was this turn and we started to deal with orchids almost 100% of our time.

ON: Your catalog is mainly composed by species?
WZ: 99% of species, we preserved them in spite of saying that it is a very little portion in the whole but we have our ideology and we only like species. Every one has hybrids: Europe, Japan, Brazil. The species are getting lost, disappearing one by one. We have a good collection of Cattleya amethystoglossa, tenuis, schofieldiana, elongata, eldorado, violacea, and do so.
Besides those from another countries such as Cattleya trianaei. For example, we are preserving Encyclia, a plant which is not commercial. It is beautiful, we like and, if we can not trade it, ok, let it peaceful. It is living well here, embellishing, pleasing. We are orchidists, we are not only commercial. If there is not this way of loving, there is no progress.

C violacea

C. trianaei

ON: And the production of the plants?
AZ: Concerning the production of species, nowadays, we are diversifying however Cattleyas and Laelias are still our main topic. From every sowing, we keep at about 50/100 seedlings, we don't sell everything to make our reserve in order to see the results, how they bloom, it is useless to sell everything and don't see the results and matrixes can be choose among them. Our collection is big because don't want only wonderful plants, we don't keep only better plants. We also keep plants with a historical value, gift from someone so the collection increases. Some people want just the top plants but we keep also many historical plants. We keep all this but there is a cost and a lot of work to maintain it.

ON: Without expecting a compensation. You both have a strong collector side.
AZ: Yes, we have. For instance, there is plants that we can, eventually, sell or exchange but, if we have only one, we will never sell it. No matter how much is offered, we won't sell unless we need to divide it. We maintain all this, it is holy to us, it is the collection. The cost is high because we don't get rid of plants. We go slower than if we have only commercial purposes but, at least, we do a solid work. There are people that find plant and sell, export and no one see it again, it is over. We don't. Everything is preserved, even, for example, the old hybrids from Floralia, we have almost everything. We have Rolf Altenburg's meristems that, may be, even Floralia haven't any more.
WZ: We have a pink Bc Pastoral got from Rolf.
AZ: There are many thing done para Manarini which are anymore available, have evaporated from the collection, Over. For example, Epidendrum pseudoepidendrum we have is a Manarini's meristem.

ON: And you have a rare Laelia praestans alba?
WZ: The matrix is an unique plant bought longtime ago, I did the polenization and we have the first blooming. Never analyze a plant by his first blooming, you should wait the second or the third. This species only exists in a specific region, Santa Leopoldina.
AW: This species takes all year along blooming, there always is a blooming plant.

Laelia praestans alba
(photo:Sergio Araujo)

ON: And the Cattleya guttata which started all that passion, is it still alive?
AZ: Yes but before buying this location in Viana, we should bring it to Pedra Azul (cooler place) and it suffered a little. Now it is recovering and next year it should bloom again.

ON: You have two places to cultivate with different climates. It means that you have plants for orchidists living in warm as well in cooler climate.
WZ: We have two nurseries, the first one is place at 1.100 m altitude, in Pedra Azul. It cold in winter, in general, the temperature stays at 6, 8ºC,  eventually it can drop more. Even in the summer, at night, the temperature stays at about 17, 18º C. As we didn't have another option, I brought there all my plants but some of them suffered a lot. Cattleya guttata, which is not from that region, suffered a lot. Cattleya trianaei, Cattleya lueddemanniana, Cattleya amethystoglossa, all of them suffered a lot. So, or we did a climate greenhouse there or we bought a new place here, in low altitude. As the lands are not so expensive here and the installations would be cheaper than in Pedra Azul, Alek and I decided to buy this place in Viana, at 300m altitude and brought back all plants for warm climate.

Pedra Azul (photo:Sergio Araujo)
Viana (photo:Sergio Araujo)

ON: Cattleya trianaei and Cattleya lueddemanniana grow better at 300m? It means that the temperature at this altitude is really different from that at the sea level and there is already an important drop of temperature at night ?
WZ: They grow better here. At every 100m, the temperature drops at about one degree. Besides the nursery in Viana is surrounded by the woods, is close to the ranges of mountains from where coming a cold air. The ideal point is when, in the morning, there is the dew and at this altitude there is already this point of dew.
AZ: It has a good drop of temperature at night.

ON: It is the great secret of cultivation orchids, luminosity associated to a diary drop of temperature and also in winter...
WZ: No doubt about, this is the trio: ventilation, luminosity and temperature. We have good aeration, so much there was in this region, in the past, warneri, schilleriana, at 300, 400m altitude, on the rocks.

ON: Basically, which species do you cultivate in Viana and in Pedra Azul?
WZ: Em Viana, Cattleya acklandiae, amethystoglossa, schofieldiana, eldorado, guttata, nobilior, schilleriana, trianaei, lueddemanniana, Epidendrum pseudoepidendrum. We cultivate at em Pedra Azul where is colder, higher, , alto, Laelia sincorana, Cattleya walkeriana

ON: Is still there many orchids in nature, around here?
WZ: No, in our region, no more.

ON: And in Pedra Azul, is possible to find anything?
WZ: There still are Bifrenaria tyranthina, Oncidium crispum, Oncidium zappii, Oncidium colnagoi, Scuticaria kaustsky, Sophrinitis coccinea, Sophronitella violacea, Laelia cowani.
Near by, at Forno Grande massif, there is the Laelia macrobulbosa. It is a rupicolous species with thick pseudobulbs and wide leaves. The plants can reach 30cm height.

Laelia macrobulbosa and the habitat

ON: I noticed that you keep the traditional nomenclature for Laelia species.
AZ: We haven't changed the names, we just use the consecrated names for the rupicolous Laelias, except for the most recently described. Concerning the modifications which are going on, we prefer to maintain this widespread nomenclature and wait for things calm down and the temperature drops down.

ON: Do Cattleya velutina and Cattleya schilleriana share the same habitat?
WZ: No, Cattleya schilleriana occurs down bellow where there is a predominance of the maritimes wings. The big concentration of schilleriana which occurred in the state of Espírito Santo was in a location called Pedra dos Ventos (Crag of Wings), at Domingos Martins region. It is a valley, or better saying a canyon with hills at the both sides, between them the Jucu river. It stands in the direction of Atlantic ocean.

C. schilleriana
The wings predominantly maritime go through this valley and the evaporation of the river supplying the plants of humidity. Cattleya schilleriana occurred In those flanks, growing among the cactus, directly on the rocks, in small shrub or on a little higher trees, everything was literally covered of Cattleya schilleriana. En enormous quantity of plants were collected and send to south of Brazil, to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. They died because people didn't and still don't know how to cultivate and kill that plant. It requires a high environmental humidity, strong ventilation, notice that its main habitat is called crag of wings were the wing even howls.

ON: Why? Is it that complicate?
WZ: Cattleya schilleriana that people complain about the culture, is not very complex. You should know how to cultivate, if you plant it in a pot, in tree fern, it will die. If you plant it in a hard tree fern (called stone tree fern), in a peroba bark, in any rough bark, which doesn't decompose easily, or in a small branch of camará, in a support where the root doesn't penetrate, which retain the humidity and lose down slowly, let it in a lighted place, well ventilated and provide abundant water, it will thrive very well. Camará is a shrub which grows in our region and has a tough duramen which can last for a hundredor two hundreds without doubt any trouble and the bark is rugged and the schilleriana adhere very well to it.
AZ: Camará is abundant here and easy to find. You cut a branch and it sprouts again, there is no problem. Peroba is more difficult to find.

ON: How do you summarize Cattleya schilleriana culture?
WZ: It grows well provide we don't plant it in pot. We should respect the required humidity, the ventilation and strong luminosity. It needs a lot of water however the roots should not be soaked because it doesn't like to have wet feet. If it has appropriated conditions, high ventilation, aerated roofs, strong luminosity (she loves it), high humidity, it will thrive well.

ON: However, there are plants of Cattleya schilleriana which never develop.
WZ: This is a problem of a plant which has suffered a kind of thump, something unpleasant happened and the plant takes a time to be recovered. I have a schilleriana coerulea that Rolf gave to me. This is one of the plant that I should bring to higher altitude and it suffered a thump. A year and a half, I brought it back, it still haven't grew but one day it will react.

ON: Is the species extinct in the nature?
WZ: In Espírito Santo yes but in the state of Bahia, a small population has been found. It is a small area so we can say that is about to be extinct.

ON: And about Promenaea genus, which species has a good occurrence in Espírito Santo?
AZ: There Promenaea xanthina and Promenaea stapelioides. Promenaea stapelioides has a good variation of color.
WZ: It occurs at about 600, 800m.

ON: And about the Stenia pallida which has been found in Bahia, what do you know about?

AZ: We have a small cutting scion but I think it is a little bit different from that which occurs in Amazon Region. The color and the form are similar, I didn't analyze in detail but they seem to be different species.

Cattleya elongata
ON: By the way, you visited and still visit habitats in the state of Bahia?
WZ: I liked and still like visiting habitats but not only those in Bahia. There, we know very well the Laelia sincorana habitat in Chapada Diamantina. Serra do Sincorá is a beautiful place, we went there at about eight times. We also visited Cattleya elongata habitat which is very beautiful during the blooming season.

Cattleya elongata

Cattleya elongata Habitats

We have already gone to see the blooming of schofieldiana. We also visited Cattleya nobilior amaliae habitat in the state of Tocantins, a spectacular blooming, it is wonderful. We have also visited many habitats in Espírito Santo.

AW: Once we visit more than 1.200km in a year, only inside the state. Here, in Espírito Santo, there is a habitat of Cattleya guttata which is amazing because of the quantity of plants as well as the size of the habitat itself.

ON: Do you travel every year?
AZ: No, it depends, latterly with the work at the nurseries, we have reduced those travels.

Laelia briegeri
ON: To go along with your father since you were a kid, you should be a good knowledge about orchids habitats.
AW: We did many travels together. We visited the most beautiful habitats such Chapada de Diamantina, in Bahia, the region of Diamantina city, in Minas Gerais. In Minas Gerais, we traveled more than we did in Bahia.
WZ: Much more. Practically we visited all those rupicolous habitats, they are outstanding. We have already seen Laelia milleri, Laelia angerer, in blossom, the most difficult such as Laelia flava at São Tomé. The blooming of Laelia briegeri in the habitat is something.
ON: Alek, what is your favorite kind of habitat?
AZ: Each habitat has its own attribute. The wood is fine but you stay limited, it is more difficult. The blooming is exuberant but the plants are on the top of the trees. I prefer rupestrian places where we have a more extensive view. In the top of mountain of rock, you have a great view and see of the those small plants sprouting on the rocks is wonderful. Diamantina, for instance, is a region easy to walk, there are many plants. So, to me, those are the most beautiful places.

Serra do Espinhaço-MG
Laelia briegeri habitat, near to Diamantina

ON: And the new rupicolous species, have you visited their habitats?

AZ: We have already traveled all over the habitats of those new species, Laelia kleberi, mirandae (Hoffmannseggella mirandae), colnagoi (Hoffmannseggella colnagoi).
ZW: We have already seen all those plants blooming in their habitat.

(Laelia kleberii habitat, recently discovered in the Serra do Espinhaço. The predominant color is light yellow but the plants have a great variation of colors.

L. colnagoi habitat
ON: And about the Laelia colnagoi habitat?
WZ: The climbing is not very long but it is a slope, so requires training and cold blood. We just can get there because of the bromeliads serving as a support to be hold during the climbing.

L. colnagoi
AW: We are already reproducing those plants, we have sown. Nowadays, we are diversifying the production of the species to let people have access.

ON: And about Laelia mirandae (Hoffmannseggella mirandae)?
Laelia mirandae
Laelia crispata
L. x britoi (natural hybrid -L.crispata x L. mirandae

Laelia mirandae Habitat - Serra do Espinhaço (north region).

AZ: This species is closely related to Laelia angererii. The region is drier and there also is the Laelia crispata (Laelia rupestris). It is not difficult to find a natural hybrid between both which has recently described as L x britoi.
The colors vary very much from pink to orange or red.

ON: Reproducing you are contributing for the preservation of the species because they are about to be extinguished in their habitats.
WZ: Laelia milleri is being extinguished, because it occurs exactly in the summit of the mountains, connected to the iron ore. The miner societies use the tractor for to remove the poor layer of ore (canga) where occurs this species to get the layers of hematite. In Itabira, where there was milleri, when I started to visit, there was a mountain, now it is a hole. In that region, there is no more, it is over.


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