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A few years ago I had an orchid that was sold mounted on a cork plaque and did very well - until it was stolen. So I know how to care for them and what to expect (not my question).

I can get my hands on a few Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium nobile keikis that need a new home and am tempted to try again, this time mounting them myself. From what I read on the web, keikis are especially suited for mounting, as they never were potted and therefore don't have to deal with changing conditions.

But I'm still wavering as to what to choose as the base:
I'd love to use "the right" branch and find it myself instead of ordering something off the internet. We live in a rural area and I can get my hands on a lot of natural materials.

My current list of "candidates" looks like this:

  • Oak (Quercus robur)
    Texture-wise my first choice, but how about the tannins in the bark? Oak was used for tanning leather, after all, would this affect the roots? I wouldn't want to "tan" them...

  • Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris)
    Also with a nice texture, but would the orchid's roots cause the small layers of the bark to separate, thus leading to instability? I'm only marginally worried about the resin as pine bark is a main component in most commercial orchid mixes.

  • Grape vine (Vitis vinifera)
    I have seen orchids on grape "trunks", so I know it's doable. For me, that would probably be the hardest to get my hands on. But does it contain chemical residue after decades of commercial wine production? And if so, would it affect the orchid? (I'm not planning on eating the orchid, of course, so it's about the plant's well-being, not mine...!)

  • Apple or Plum (Malus domestica / Prunus domestica)
    Currently my favourite, because really easy to get and with a wide choice for "the perfect piece". I think the bark is reasonably coarse given the right cut and it should be pesticide free (meadow orchard). Would the moss and lichen that's often on the older branches be a problem? Should it be scrubbed off or can it stay for additional visual interest?

  • Some random piece of fallen timber or root, left outside until the bark fell off and it turned whiteish
    (The landlocked equivalent of driftwood, so to speek.)
    Arguably the choice with the "most visual appeal", but would it be too hard and smooth for the orchids to "get a good grip"?

Any comments on my plans? What would be a good choice and why? Did I forget something? Would any bark fall off eventually, thus risking the stability of the orchid fixed to it? Commercial cork plaques are only bark, so no risk of separation. On the other hand, our local botanical garden / zoo has many of it's orchids on tree branches and this seems to work fine.

Or should I simply put the keikis in a nice pot and forget about this plan?

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When I worked with epiphytes we used the locally available trees as a substrate when cork was not suitable for the desired look. When we used wood:

  • bark was always removed. It could contain insect eggs or other problems. As a tree's first line of defence this is where you are most likely to have natural compounds or residues that the orchid will not like. Bark will dry and could detach as the wood ages.
  • we attached the orchids with a bit of wire looped around the trunk or with silicon caulking that was not for kitchen/bathroom use as that kind contains a fungicide
  • Driftwood cedar stumps or branches that had been in the river worked great once dried

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