The deceptive sex lives of orchids

In the 1930s, an amateur naturalist solved an evolutionary riddle that had flummoxed even Charles Darwin: how and why do orchids lure male wasps? Danielle Clode and Sue Double tell the story of Edith Coleman.

It is early January of 1927 and Mrs Edith Coleman is sitting at her desk, admiring a vase of native orchids by the window.

The pink labellum of the small tongue orchid curves upwards, studded with two rows of shiny dark spots, and surrounded by five thin leg-like spikes—the sepals and petals. The orchid hardly looks like a flower at all.

But the orchids attract more than just Coleman’s attention. Through the window comes a stream of insect visitors: small black ichneumon wasps. They bustle enthusiastically around the orchids, each anxious to be the first to enter the flower, not head-first as most nectar foragers do, but backwards.

After a time, individual wasps depart, each carrying a packet of pollen on the tip of its abdomen, ready, no doubt, to deposit their parcels into the next orchid that attracts their fervent attention.

What was it that attracted the wasps? Orchids produce no nectar or edible material. Wasps are normally predators, hunting caterpillars and other larvae. And all the visitors were male—they weren’t laying any eggs.

Coleman could draw only one conclusion. ‘They are answering,’ she wrote, ‘to an irresistible sex-instinct.’

The behaviour Coleman observed pseudocopulation, attracting pollinating insects through perceived sexual favours.

Coleman wasn’t the first to observe this; in an earlier century, Charles Darwin had been puzzled by the frequent ‘attacks’ made upon orchids by their pollinators. ‘What this means I cannot conjecture,’ he declared.

Coleman, however, was the first to explain the strange approach of the pollinating wasps.

Her experiments proved beyond any doubt that the wasps were pollinating the orchids, and that the orchids were mimicking female wasps—in effect, persuading the insect to mate with flowers.

Coleman was not a professional scientist, but rather an avid amateur naturalist and prolific nature writer. Her early work was published in the pages of The Victorian Naturalist—the journal of the Field Naturalist’s Club of Victoria, which she joined at the age of 48.

Over the course of 27 years, Coleman contributed 135 articles and notes to that journal, and had her scientific work published internationally. In addition, Coleman wrote regularly for The ArgusThe Age and The Australian Women’s Mirror. In 1949, all these contributions were recognised when Coleman became the first woman to be awarded the Australian Natural History Medallion.

But it was for her work on pseudocopulation that Coleman became best known. Her publications attracted international attention, and earned her the respect and admiration of eminent orchidologists worldwide

Dr R.S. Rogers presented her work in his address to the Australian and New Zealand Science Congress of 1932. ‘Perhaps I lingered longer over your discovery than on the other papers as it brought so prominently before the world one of the strangest and most weird devices in the history of pollination,’ he noted.

‘It will prove a worthy supplement to Darwin’s classic study on the same subject,’ he added later.

Another eminent orchidologist, H.R. Rupp, put it even more directly. ‘Your name ought to be Darwin,’ he wrote.

Coleman hypothesised that the orchid’s mimicry worked on several levels. To the human eye, the pink tongue of the orchid, with its shiny spots and long, spiky legs does look a little wasp-like. But in wasp-vision, the orchid is uncanny: it mimics the precise dimensions and shape of a female wasp’s body.

Wasps are sensitive to UV reflection, and the orchids’ reflection mimics the wings and abdomen of a female wasp. This is not to say that the orchids neglect the wasp’s other senses—they even use tactile features to stimulate the male wasps into mating or guide their bodies into the correct position.

Coleman knew that there had to be more than visual and tactile mimicry at work, however. The wasp’s attraction operated even at considerable distance—wasps rapidly locate flowers even when they are inside a house. She suspected scent—but to our nose, the orchid gives off no discernible scent at all.

It would be three quarters of a century before the mystery Coleman identified was finally solved using a combination of two new technologies: gas chromatography, which identifies individual compounds in a chemical, and electroantennal detection, which measures the electrical activity present in an insect’s antennae when exposed to a chemical compound.

In 2004, Florian Schiestl and his team at the Australian National University put these two technologies together and discovered that the odour produced by the orchid exactly mimics the sex pheromone of the female wasp. Even more astonishingly, different species of orchids have reproduced the identical single compound present in the pheromone of its specific pollinator.

These compounds are so attractive that a drop placed on the head of a pin is enough to stimulate copulation. So persuasive is the orchid’s mimicry that the wasps will even discard a real female wasp in favour of the alluring flowers.

Pseudocopulation is a relatively rare phenomenon amongst Australian orchids. Of our 1,300 named orchid species, only 14 are known to practice sexual mimicry to effect pollination. It is not only wasps that are deceived into providing this service, but also ants, gnats, bees and flies.

The orchid’s sexual deceit and the strategies it uses to ensure the transfer of its genes is so detailed and complex that it is impossible to conceive the evolutionary process that might have given rise to it. It seemed a great mystery that such a process, so beneficial to the orchid, so exploitative to the wasp, could possibly have evolved.

Coleman noted as much, remarking that male wasps often emerge before the females, and it is these early-season enthusiasts that are most vulnerable to the lure of the orchids. Orchids are relatively rare, so the momentary distraction of a few male wasps is unlikely to have any long-term impact on the wasp population. In any case, male wasps can mate multiple times and females are self-fertile. Like the orchids themselves, which can reproduce vegetatively, the wasps have many ways of ensuring the continuation of their species.

Modern scientists, like Coleman’s contemporaries, continue to acknowledge the importance of her work. Her studies are still cited in scientific papers today, not just for her contributions to the study of orchids and pollination, but also for her research on birds, spiders, phasmids and echidnas, as well as the impact of mistletoe.

Coleman herself had no anxieties about stepping into the territory of professional biologists. ‘We nature lovers,’ she told The Age in 1950, ‘may open our windows on all aspects of nature, even though we may sometimes abut on the preserves of the specialist.’

Her influence on others has been broad and indirect. She kept up a voluminous correspondence with other scientists around the world, sending them an abundance of samples with which to continue their work, and she supported other up-and-coming students of nature, particularly women.

Amongst her protégés were Rica Ericson, who wrote: ‘[Coleman] helped me in many ways, yet always treated me as an equal, and not as the learner I was. We loved the same things, and that was what mattered to her. I shall always remember her keen interest in all living things, and her enjoyment of beauty.’

Lisa Galbraith, another student, related the story of a walk with Coleman. After seeking out orchids, Coleman stopped at the fence of a bush garden and watched honeyeaters dance among the salvia flowers.

‘Sometimes,’ Coleman said to Lisa, ‘when I see a garden like that, I find out who it belongs to and post them some roots or a packet of seeds.

‘They don’t know who sends them, but I like to think of their surprise, and of my seeds growing in so many different gardens.’

And the seeds Coleman planted are almost certainly growing still in more gardens than she could ever have imagined.

 *Source: ABC

Looks like a bee, but is really an orchid

PUNE: Taking a stroll through the forests of the Western Ghats in February and March, one might spot a bee on a plant growing on tall trees or it might just have been the

flower of Cottonia penduncularis, commonly called the Bee orchid because of its ability to perfectly mimic the insect.

When in full bloom, the flowers of this orchid resemble the back of a bee. Scientists believe the modification helps to lure pollinators to the flower enabling more efficient cross-pollination.

The Bee orchid is one of more than 300 species of orchids that are found in the Western Ghats. While this orchid is found in Sri Lanka as well, nearly one-third of them are endemic to the Western Ghats (they are not found elsewhere), said Jeewan Singh Jalal, senior scientist at the Western Regional Centre of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI).

“Orchids usually require high rainfall and humidity for their habitat. Nearly 40% of orchids are found in evergreen and semi-evergreen forests. With the high levels of rainfall received by the slopes of the Western Ghats, they offer an ideal habitat for orchids,” Jalal said.

The geographic location of the mountains could also explain the high degree of endemism. On one side of the mountains lie the coast and the sea. The plains on the other side of the mountain chain comprise dry areas that don’t offer a habitat conducive for orchids. Thus over the centuries many unique species have evolved in isolation, he explained.

Perhaps the second largest group of flowering plants in the world, orchids are one of the most ecologically and morphologically diverse families. They thrive on the diverse habitats available within the Western Ghats. There are three kinds of orchids – those that grow on dead and decaying matter, terrestrial orchids that grow on the soil and the epiphytic orchids that grow on other trees, Jalal said.

he laterite plateaus of the Western Ghats for instance are home to several species of terrestrial orchids including endemic species like Habenaria grandifloriformis and Habenaria suaveolens. In the extreme climatic conditions on the plateaus, these plants bloom only in the rainy season, usually in June and July. The tubers of the plant remain underground for the rest of the year and new shoots emerge the next season. On the other hand, the vegetative parts of the epiphytic orchids can be seen throughout the year, he said.

The terrestrial orchids have two modes of reproduction, through these tubers as well as through seeds like other orchids. However, the seeds of orchids are microscopic and do not contain endosperm that nourishes the budding plant. Instead, orchids rely entirely on a group of fungus to provide the germinating seeds with nutrients. This symbiotic relationship is called Mycorrhiza, he added.

“Some orchid species require unique habitat and microhabitats so they are confined to particular elevations and forest types. Some are naturally rare; others are so because of geographic distribution, narrow habitat requirements, and low-density populations,” he said.

Some species that were reported earlier from the region have not been found recently, indicating their gradual disappearance due to habitat changes. For instance Paphiopedilum druryi, which was once found in plenty in Agastyamalai Hills in southern India is now difficult to locate, Jalal said.

*Source: The Times of India

Orchids of the future grow in Salinas

Some might call orchids low-maintenance: They require water only once every three weeks. But Floricultura Pacific greenhouse in Salinas has elevated orchid care to a Space Age science.

“We probably have more technology in here than in any other U.S. greenhouse,” general manager Don Howell said, gesturing to a maze of conveyor belts and cranes suspended from the ceiling.

This center of innovation began in 2006, when the Dutch company Floricultura bought an old complex of greenhouses off Esperanza Road. In greenhouse circles, Holland means innovation, according to Howell.

Dutch conditions require creative approaches, he explained. The Netherlands’ high wages make automation an attractive investment, and the cold climate demands temperature-controlled greenhouses.

When the company began the search for an American location, the East Coast initially seemed attractive because, Howell explained, many American buyers live along the Atlantic. But the weather proved too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, poisonous ingredients for keeping utility bills low.

Salinas offered a much milder climate, but even here, not all sites suited the company’s connoisseur tastes. Billowing fog discouraged Floricultura from purchasing a nearby greenhouse — orchids must have their sun.

“This location is very unique,” Howell said. “It’s ideal for what we’re trying to do.”

It’s ideal, in other words, for producing 5 million orchids of top quality per year to send to growers across the country, including Puerto Rico and Hawaii. Pioneering technology makes that possible.

Labs in the Netherlands breed orchids through tissue cultures. Scientists shave off a piece of stem from a desired plant and clone it in a petri dish. They then ship samples to the Salinas greenhouse for further growth. For charismatic plants like orchids, cloning offers critical predictability.

“People used to cross two whites and get a pink,” said Howell.

Now the greenhouse can develop orchids to maximize the color, flower size, and number buyers want.

Bright red cranes stretch down from the ceilings and move the orchids along metal pathways, to an orchid photo booth that sorts the crops by size. Since orchids take a relatively long time to grow — roughly two years — the plants must be clustered in groups of similar age and size so they can be flagged for sale to growers 12 weeks before they flower. Growers then take the plants and sell them directly to customers.

In a carefully maintained 80°F expanse with insulating blankets hanging overhead, Howell pointed to dozens of rows of potted green leaves. They ranged from short, stubby 6-month-old pots to those over a year old, with banana-sized leaves. No workers lugged the plants around.

 “We take plants to people, rather than people to plants,” Howell said, looking up at the omnipresent cranes that shoved the pots along the conveyor.Howell worked for much of his life growing roses until the market crashed. He said that orchids are more resistant to such crashes because of the challenges newcomers face. Growers must be willing and able to invest in greenhouses fitted for orchid needs, while waiting at least two years before they reap their first profits.

This year, white orchids constituted 35-40 percent of the greenhouse’s sales, thanks to the ravenous demands of brides and grooms. Howell says he’s never seen a comparable white orchid mania.

That’s saying something. Howell has been working in greenhouses a long time. But the novelties of Floricultura Pacific offered him fresh entertainment.

“I’ve been working in greenhouses all my life,” said Howell. “To get into something brand new with all the latest technology was pretty exciting.”

Orchids Surpass Poinsettias

Orchids have recently surpassed poinsettias as the best-selling potted flower in the US. A little more than a decade ago these alluring exotic plants were believed hard to grow. Yes, there are rare and finicky varieties. However, orchids are actually resilient plants. The issue with growing them has not been keeping them alive but bringing them to bloom.

Growers induce flowers to bloom by manipulating water, nutrients, temperature or light, alone or in combination. A lack of research-based information on the environmental conditions that trigger flowering in orchids previously prevented growers from producing blooms outside the plants’ normal flowering cycle. Once scientific studies determined how to manipulate the plant’s environment to stimulate flowering at a certain time, commercial growers were able to induce flower production for all seasons.

As a result of recent orchid-growing technology we now see a proliferation of blooming plants in consumer marketplaces. Prices have declined significantly in the past decade to bring them line with other potted flowers.

Some people throw orchids out after they have finished flowering. Orchids, like Christmas cactus, have a blooming cycle and a resting period during which they grow new leaves and store up energy for their next blooms. The bloom period is long, up to two months or more, but, like many other house and garden plants, orchids bloom only once a year. It seems a shame to toss them out because they take a rest.

Orchids are actually easy to grow. Give them the right environment they will readily rebloom each year. Follow the care instructions on your plant’s hang tag. Your plant will bloom for you according to its normal flowering cycle. Different species bloom during different seasons—spring, fall or late winter-early spring.

Tips for Growing Orchids

Orchids require a special soilless growing medium that provides good drainage and aeration. Most cultivated orchids are epiphytic, which means they grow in the air, taking their nutrients from air, rain and dust. In nature they hang on trees or branches. Therefore roots are in the air rather than in the ground. Roots grow from the top, not the bottom as with other plants. Consequently, don’t cut off aerial roots or replant epiphytic orchids in soil—it can kill them.

They like light, but not direct sun. A north facing window is good for the popular Phalaenopsis species (moth orchid). Other familiar species like Cattleya and Dendrobium can handle an east or west facing window.

Orchids thrive in warmth and humidity. Know what temperatures your orchid requires: cool (60 – 70F days, 50 – 55F nights), intermediate (70 – 80F days, 55 – 65F nights) or warm (80 – 90F days, 65 – 70F nights). Most species do best with a day to night temperature fluctuation of 10 to 15 degrees. Nighttime temperatures are vital for growth and to stimulate blooms.

Room temperature rain water or spring water is a better choice than tap water. Never let an orchid sit in water—it can kill the plant.

Orchids are not heavy feeders but they do need nutrients. Use a balanced (10-10-10 or 20-20-20) orchid fertilizer at one quarter strength weekly or biweekly. Water before you fertilize.

The Phalaenopsis orchid which does well in the intermediate temperatures in our homes is probably the easiest orchid to grow and bring to bloom. Flowering begins in winter-early spring. Blooming is triggered by a few cool nights in the 50s or 60s which stimulate a flower spike to emerge.

English explorers pioneered orchid hunting in South America during the 16th century. Once a hobby for the landed aristocracy who had time and resources, orchid collecting grew into a feverish competition. Modern orchid aficionados continue to hunt through Asian and South American jungles for rare plants.

Centuries of orchid hunting, pollination and cross breeding have given us 750 genera and more than 30,000 hybrids around the world. Today orchids are an important floriculture crop.

Instead of poinsettias you may receive an orchid or two as a holiday gifts this year.

For additional information google Clemson hgic 1560 Orchids and The American Orchid Society.

*Source: Myrtle Beach Online

Singapore plans to name an orchid variety after Narendra Modi

Singapore: The Singapore government wants to name a variety of orchid, the island city-state’s national flower, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit on 23-24 November.

In the past, the Singapore has accorded this honour to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate, the King and Queen of Belgium, Phillipe and Mathilde, former US first lady Laura Bush, former South African president Nelson Mandela, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and most recently, Chinese president Xi Jinping.

However, a fortnight ahead of the visit, there is still no word on whether the PM, who shares a rapport with Singapore PM Lee Hsein Loong, would accept the gesture. Singapore is one of the few countries Modi visited as Gujarat chief minister between 2002 and 2014, when he was shunned by the West for allegedly turning a blind eye to the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Officials from both sides—India and Singapore—say Modi is yet to accept the unique gesture.

Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh declined the honour during a visit to Singapore in July 2011, according to an Indian official, who recalled that former prime minister Indira Gandhi had an orchid named after her. India’s former first lady Usha Narayanan who visited Singapore along with her husband, then president K.R. Narayanan, in the year 2000 also has an orchid in her name, according to the Singapore Botanical Garden website.

Naming an orchid after a country’s leader is aimed at promoting goodwill and fostering closer ties between nations, according to the website. “From 1957, the Singapore government began to honour state visitors and other VIPs by naming selected orchid hybrids after them. This prized collection of ‘VIP Orchids’ has become an important attraction of the National Orchid Garden,” says the website.

The first VIP orchid was Aranthera Anne Black in 1956, after Lady Black, wife of a former governor of Singapore, Sir Robert Black, according to the website. Examples of the more than 200 VIP orchids on display include Dendrobium Margaret Thatcher, Renantanda Akihito (named after the emperor of Japan), Dendrobium Masako Kotaishi Hidenka (named after Japanese princess Masako), Dendrobium Elizabeth (named after British monarch Queen Elizabeth II), Paravanda Nelson Mandela (after the former South African president), Renantanda Kofi Annan (named after the former UN secretary general), Dendrobium Joe and Jill Biden (after the US vice-president and his wife), Papilionanda William Catherine (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), Papilionanda Ban Ki-Moon Yoo Soon-Taek (the current UN secretary general and his wife) and Aranda Zhu Rongji (named after the former Chinese PM).

The orchid named after China’s current president Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan, who were in Singapore on a visit over the weekend, is called Papilionanda Xi Jinping-Peng Liyuan.

A separate section of the Singapore Botanical Garden is devoted to honouring artistes and celebrities. As the name goes, the garden acknowledges celebrities who have “contributed significantly to the society”.

Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan are among the many celebrities honoured by Singapore.


*Source: Live Mint

Home & Garden calendar

“Oak Leaf” Fundraiser: Put your message on a stainless steel oak leaf. From now until the end of 2015, individuals or businesses can make a gift of $250 or more to help finish the South Arboretum Plan at Evergreen Arboretum at Legion Park in Everett. The leaves are 4-by-6-inches and will be embedded in a wall to be created at the entrance to the South Area. Messages can be up to three lines, with 25 characters and spaces per line. Leaves can be ordered online at Call the Arboretum message phone at 425-257-8597 for more information.

Regional Orchid Show: Swanson’s Nursery, 9701 15th Ave. NW, Seattle. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 7 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 8. Free. Regional Northwest Orchid Society show features displays by orchid societies from throughout the Pacific Northwest and from vendors who will be competing for coveted American Orchid Society awards. It is an opportunity to see what kinds of orchids hobbyists can raise to blooming size in a variety of conditions (windowsills, outdoors, under lights and greenhouses). Five regional orchid vendors will be selling orchids not found in common outlets. Orchid hobbyists will be on hand to answer questions. A complete list of vendors and their specialties plus speakers and times on the society’s website, NWOS is a regional organization with members throughout the Puget Sound area. It meets the second Monday of every month at 7 p.m. from September through June at the Center for Urban Horticulture, near University Village, 3501 NE 41st St., Seattle. Meetings are open to the public.

All About Beavers: 7 p.m. Nov. 13, Northwest Stream Center Auditorium, McCollum Park, 600 128th St. SE, Everett. Includes a showing of the IMAX movie “Beavers,” a presentation on beaver habits, habitat requirements and physiology, and viewing of a beaver dam on North Creek. “Sammy the Salmon” will introduce the presentation describing why beaver dams are great rearing habitat for juvenile salmon and trout as well as beneficial to a wide range of wildlife. Free, with donations appreciated. Call 425-316-8592 to reserve a seat. For more, go

“Garden Notebooks: How to make landscape more successful and keep track of your plantings”: Monroe Garden Club, 12:30 p.m. Nov. 9, Monroe United Methodist Church, 342 S. Lewis St. Monroe. Club member Kirsten Lintz, certified professional horticulturist. Free. Donations for the Sky Valley Food Bank accepted. Call 360-863-6160 for more information.

Hosting Mason Bees in your Backyard: 6 p.m. Stanwood Library; 11 a.m. Nov. 14, Arlington Library. Do wonders for your garden and help the environment at the same time. Learn how easy it is to host non-stinging, native mason bees in the spring by renting a backyard bee kit. Presented by Missy Anderson of King County Master Gardeners. For all ages. Free.

Juhani Pallasmaa, Nordic architect: 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 11, Nordic Heritage Museum, 3014 NW 67th St., Seattle. Hear about the renowned Finnish architect’s inspiration and the meaning of what is “Nordic” in today’s architecture. Free. More at

Assistance League of Everett Annual Home Tour: Noon to 7 p.m. Dec. 7 in the north end of Everett. Seven houses decorated for the holiday season starting at 7th Street to 22nd Street. This is not a cooks tour this year, but there will be several homes that will have chefs in them. The others will have a variety of happenings. Tickets are $25 advance, $30 day of tour. More at

Master Gardener training class: Applications are now being accepted for the training class, which starts in January. Training focuses on familiarization and learning how to use resources to research, educate, mentor and answer horticulture questions for the general public in a collaborative environment. All training is open book and no memorization is expected. Training involves approximately 80 hours of classroom and workshop instruction held once a week daytimes every Thursday January through March. Tuition is $275 plus a volunteer commitment of 40 hours each year for two years working, learning and having fun with other like-minded volunteers on a variety of horticultural and environmental educational projects. Without the volunteer commitment, tuition is $775. For more information and an application, visit the Extension website at and look under “News and Announcements,” or call the Extension Office at 425-338-2400.

Growing Groceries Education Series: Series of classes on growing your own food. Classes are 7 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, WSU Snohomish County Extension’s Cougar Auditorium, 600 128th St. SE, Everett, inside McCollum Park. Nov. 11: Healthy Soil = Healthy Plants Part 2. Interpreting soil tests; making & using compost. Cost is $25 per class. Any five or more are $20 each or take all 10 for $175. Register online at For more information visit, call Kate Halstead at 425-357-6024 or email

Holiday Garden Art and Crafts: Arlington Garden Club, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 21., Gleneagle Country Club, 7619 E. Country Club Drive, Arlington.

Nursery classes
These local nurseries feature gardening classes, guest speakers and special events throughout the year, often for no charge. Check their websites or call for details.

*Source: Herald Net


Dear Orchid Doc:

Help! My orchids are sick. The undersides of the Dendrobium leaves are dark brown and the stain won’t rub off. Can you tell me what to do, please?

— Kay

Dear Kay:

You seem to have what is known as orchid rust. Please use 2 tsps of Topsin with 1 tsp of Caprid. In a gallon of water. Spray once per week, preferably when it is cool, as the sun will cause the chemical to burn the leaves. This you will do for four weeks. After the four weeks you will need to do it every two weeks for two months, then go back to your regular routine. When using the Topsin as a preventative, use 1 tsp instead. Your plants should be better within four weeks, but the old rust will not come off the leaves unless you pick them off. The idea is to stop it from spreading.

Dear Orchid Doc:

I see the older cane of my Dendrobiums growing small plants. Can I take them off and plant them?

— DW

Dear DW:

When you see your older Dendrobium cane growing lots of plantlets (keikis), oftentimes it means the orchid isn’t getting enough light. You can pot these plantlets when they develop roots.


Dear Orchid Doc:

How do I know when to repot my orchids?

— SS

Dear SS:

Firstly, always remember that when pots are too big, your plants will concentrate on growing roots to fill the pot before they start to grow upwards. Having said that, you need to repot when any of the following occurs: 1 The medium has turned into mush; will cause fungus. 2 The roots have walked out of the pot. 3 Plants keep toppling over, being top-heavy.


DEAR DOC with BETTY ASHLEY Betty Stephenson Ashley Betty’s Landscaping, Farm Garden Supplies 161 Constant Spring Road, Kingston 8 Telephone: 1 (876) 322-4585, 870-0191, 931-8804, 755-2204 Fax: 1 (876) 931-8805 betty-may2@ Q Q

*Source: Jamaica Observer

Green Thumb: Learn to grow, care for orchids

One of last year’s most popular speakers, Emily Rockey, will be with the Green Valley Gardeners on Nov. 12, 2015, at the Desert Hills Center, 2980 S. Camino del Sol in Green Valley.

Last year, Rockey enlightened us about bees, and the throngs said, “get her back.” This year, she draws on another database — her experience as horticulture curator at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.

One of her duties was to oversee the orchids, and she will talk about the history of orchids, the main kinds of orchids and their care. Rockey also will bring some moth orchids to repot, showing how easy it is to do.

She is an experienced presenter on the topic, having taught a repeating “orchids 101” class many times at Tucson Botanical. For two years, she also was the newsletter editor for the Tucson Orchid Society.

Currently, Rockey is the marketing director for the Fairfax Companies in Tucson, which is involved in large-scale composting activities and is the maker of Tank’s Green Stuff, sold locally in Green Valley. She will bring some of Tank’s new product, the Tank’s Pro, a mixture of compost and coconut shells.

Green Valley Gardeners is a service organization that presents interesting speakers free to the public throughout much of the year.

The talks start at 9:30 a.m., but if you come earlier, you can visit with the gardeners about their various projects, and ask whatever gardening questions you might have of the Master Gardeners, who have a table at the lecture. You are also welcome to grab a cup of coffee and a cookie!

Green Thumb is provided by the Green Valley Gardeners and seminar speakers.

Orchid, Garden & Gourmet Food Festival

December 5 & 6, 2015 – 9:00am – 4:00pm

Orchid, Garden & Gourmet Food Festival featuring the 9th Annual Orchid & Exotic Plant Sale. Orchids, Exotics, Tropicals, Herbs, Fruit Trees, Garden Art, Gourmet Food Trucks, Libations, Gardening Lectures, Orchid Displays, Live Music, Green Market and Much More!!

$12 Members / $15 Non-Members
(Includes Orchid Festival and Self-Guided Grounds Tour – self-guided house tours are an additional  $5). Children 12 & under are Free. No Discounts or Group rates Apply.  There will be no guided house tours during the festival weekend.  All tickets are non-refundable.

Orchid, Garden and Gourmet Food Festival in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Event Features:

Orchid Displays – Orchid displays created by local Orchid Societies.
Gourmet Food Trucks – Food trucks throughout the property offering edible bites.
Wine, Beer, Mimosa’s & Bloody Mary’s– Enjoy an invigorating mixture as you wander through the garden.
Live Music – Featuring live folk music by Nicole Noel and Chance Meyer from 11:30am – 2:30pm on Saturday.
Orchid and Exotic Plants – Featuring over 40 vendors including tropicals, fruit trees, bamboo, butterfly garden plants and much more.
Orchid Supplies – Vendors to provide all you need to plant and grow orchids.
Garden Art – Attractive and unusual orchid and/or garden related items from several vendors.
Orchid Care Lectures – Saturday – 10:30 Intro to Orchids,  2:00 Basic Orchid Repotting.  Sunday – 10:30 Intro to Orchids, 2:00 Orchid Pests & Diseases.
Green Market – Herbs, organic fruit and vegetables and helpful tips on gardening will be available.
Self-guided Tours of the House and Grounds – Stroll through the grounds and house at your leisure and experience the charm and beauty of the Bonnet House estate.
Rest Areas – Where you can sit and relax in the shade.
Bonnet House Museum Shop – Near the main house, offers a unique choice of interesting books, jewelry and array of gift items.
Lots of Free parking – The entrance to the parking lot is on N. Birch Road off of Sunrise Blvd. between A1A and the Intracoastal Waterway. Our pedestrian only south entrance is located at 750 Breakers Avenue off Vista Mar Street.

Last year’s vendors included:  Orchid Treasures, Gardens Gone Wire, Quest Orchids, Springwater Orchids, Dan & Margie Orchids, Joe’s Bromeliads, Miller’s Way Orchids, Sly’s Coconut Art, Carib Plants, Hoyaplants.Com, Beautiful Gardens & Bonsai, Pelican Coast Farms, J.G.’S Tropical Plants, Red Hawk Nursery, Owl’s Nest, Peter’s Crotons, Greenhouse Orchids , H & H Bamboo, Decorate With Bamboo, Bactra Design, Honeybeez.Com, Taskease, Plantio La Orquidea, Atizana Inspired, Nature’s Relics, The Plant Store, Oriental Rug Care Company, Fantastic Ferns, Marando Farms, Orchid Hangers Corp., Broward Orchid Supply, Lee Sky Wood Art, Birdssquirrelsn.Com, Zen Orchids & Tropicals, Hang-A-Pot, Rare Fruit & Vegatable Counsel Of Broward, Orchids In Bloom, Faux The Love, Fire Rocks, Lucky Bamboo 4 U.

*Source: Bonnet House

Addicted To Orchids

Once upon a time, orchids were known as the world’s most exotic flowers.

Hard to find, harder to care for, and impossibly expensive – the only affordable orchids were the big floppy ones you bought in a corsage for the high school prom.

But recently, orchids seem to be everywhere; in every hotel lobby, every garden store, even at the supermarket.

Why have these beautiful, but sometimes bizarre, blossoms become so ubiquitous?

As 60 Minutes discovered a few years ago, it may be because people simply get addicted to orchids. Correspondent Lesley Stahl reports on this story that first aired April 9, 2000.

“It’s an obsession. Once you start with them, once you hold this thing of exquisite beauty in your hand, and you touch it, you’re hooked,” says Carol Noble.

Noble is hooked on orchids: the most complicated, highly-evolved plants on earth.

More than 30,000 different species of them flower in the wild, on every continent but Antarctica. They range from the achingly beautiful to the truly weird-looking, and orchid addicts want them all.

As one grower put it: “You can get off alcohol, drugs, women, food and cars. But once you’re hooked on orchids, you’re finished.”

Orchid hunters smuggle rare ones out of the jungle. People deplete their savings to buy orchids, even create foundations to care for them after they die. In San Francisco, people stand in line in the rain just to get into an orchid show to “ooh” and “aah.”

In Tokyo, half a million people swarm into Japan’s biggest baseball stadium to view and video, sniff and snap the world’s best orchids. All over the world, people start with one orchid, and before they know it, they’re addicts.

Twenty five years ago, Bob Weltz was a wealthy Wall Street investment banker who’d never even thought about an orchid until someone gave him a few. But that’s all it took.

“I started with a lot of plants in my bathroom, and then finally built a room – I changed my living room into an indoor greenhouse,” says Weltz. “This was on the 12th floor of an apartment on 71st Street in Manhattan with about 4,500 plants that I had growing in my apartment.”

When even 4,500 orchids proved too few, Weltz moved west, to an estate in Santa Barbara. No way could he ever run out of room here. Fourteen years later, his greenhouse is bursting at the seams, even overflowing into his elegant dining room.

“They call many of us ‘orchaholics,'” says Weltz.

You could say that orchids are designed to be irresistible. Every shape, color, fragrance and pattern serves the same purpose: to attract a particular bug or fly or wasp to visit, enter, and get covered with pollen to carry to another orchid.

Some orchids even trick insects into thinking they’re visiting other insects.

It’s all about spreading pollen, a flower’s version of sex. In the documentary, “The Private Life of Plants,” David Attenborough’s description of one orchid that mimics a female wasp sounds almost pornographic.

“The orchid’s mimicry is so convincing, and enticing that sometimes a flower will attract a whole scrum of sex-crazed suitors,” says Attenborough.

What bugs do in the wild, orchaholics do in the greenhouse. Since long before anyone ever heard the expression “genetic engineering,” people have been cross-pollinating orchids, trying to make them bigger, better, brighter.

Kerry Herndon is a breeder and grower in Florida. He claims they make 6,000 hybrids a year. How he does that is not particularly high tech. Orchid breeders use a toothpick to take pollen from one orchid, call it the Dad, and transfer it to the Mom.

“If you went to the jungle you could maybe find this plant right here. You hybridize that with something with a little bit bigger flowers and you can get this result. And then you would want to maybe cross that with something that had much larger flowers because you want bigger flowers, and you might end up with something like this. It’s still branching a little bit but it has much larger flowers,” says Herndon.

That process took almost a decade. And breeders can’t be sure what they’re going to get. They might expect solids and get stripes.

But after more than a century of surprises, hundreds of thousands of new orchid hybrids have been created and meticulously catalogued by name.

“Phalenopsis-shari-nelson-cruel-smith-ex-duradonopsis,” says Herndon, jokingly.

With certain types of orchids, growers like Herndon can now do more than just breed. Lately, they’ve been cloning them.

“You can grow a million plants from one plant,” says Herndon.

More precisely, you can clone a million plants from one piece of tissue no bigger than a pea. First, it grows in a test-tube, then in a laboratory flask, then in a bunch of flasks, then a bunch of pots. In two or three years, a greenhouse-full of identical orchids.

And we thought Dolly the Sheep was the breakthrough.

“The first clones done on anything were orchid clones, because orchids were so valuable that they wanted to take prizewinning orchids, and replicate them identically,” says Herndon. “So they created the cloning technology to duplicate orchids.”

Cloning and precise breeding have allowed Herndon and other big growers to produce orchids by the millions, and make them affordable. His biggest customer is Home Depot, which sells plants for $20 that not long ago would have cost twenty times that.

If Herndon represents the Home Depot end of the orchid market, California breeder Terry Root is the Tiffanys of the business.

“I produce art here. I’m not a wallpaper manufacturer,” says Root, who specializes in breeding exotic papheo-pedilum orchids, which so far can’t be cloned. In fact, they still have to be created one painstaking step at a time. And they can cost up to $2,000.

That expensive orchid is called a “stud plant.” Just as a single champion racehorse put out to stud can make a horse breeder wealthy, a champion stud orchid – producing up to a 100,000 seeds from one pollenization – can keep a nursery in the green for years.

So many exotic orchids have been taken out of the world’s jungles to be used as breeding studs that all orchids in the wild are now considered endangered – and they are protected by the same law that covers rare rhinos and elephants.

Customs officers routinely catch people trying to smuggle wild orchids, as author Eric Hansen discovered while researching his book “Orchid Fever.” Investigators, he says, even stage “orchid raids.”

There is something called the Orchid Police. And there are even orchid safaris. In fact, Hansen says he has led an orchaholic on a three-week expedition into the jungles of Borneo just to snap a picture of the rarest orchid on earth.

“The look on his face. It was as if he had discovered, you know, the Holy Grail or something,” says Hansen. “I mean, tears in his eyes. And I looked at him and I thought, ‘These plants have power of people.'”

People will also go to extraordinary lengths to be able to boast, “I have the rarest, the showiest, the best orchid.”

Orchid judges are the ones who decide which are the best. And at almost every orchid show, judges give awards – or decide not to give them.

They can make or break an orchid, and its owner.

At the San Francisco Orchid Show, with judges using reference books and slides and magnifiers and rulers, five out of 52 orchids were deemed worthy of an award.

The best of the best could end up at the Tokyo Dome show, the orchid Superbowl. There’s $150,000 in total prize money, and the top orchid’s owner gets treated like the MVP. The awards ceremony is a cross between the Nobel Peace Prize and “The Price Is Right.” Where else can you see very dignified men wearing corsages the size of cabbages?

This year, one of the winners was a papheopadelum that someone bought from Terry Root. So next year, even more orchaholics will visit his greenhouse and pay him $10,000-$20,000 for one orchid.

“One of my employees said, ‘You know, these papheopaedelum people are lunatics,'” says Root. “And I said, ‘You know, that’s a really nice name for a cross.’ So I named one ‘Lunacy,’ and it’s been one of my most popular crosses.”

*Source: CBS News