Friday, 18 September 2009

Orchids in context

It's not hard to see why I love orchids. Orchids belong to the jungly, over-heated place that identifies where I live and where I come from. As simple as that. They belong to the land that I have claimed as my own. It's the only home that I know intimately. Several of these orchids are are indigenous to Trinidad. The delicate purple one above is Encyclia bractescens.

Above is the famous Oncidium lanceanum or the Cedros bee. If there ever was a poster child for the orchid world to warn against over-collecting from the wild, it would be this orchid. Once commonly found growing on the south-western peninsula of Trinidad, hence the name Cedros bee, it is now, very nearly extinct. Over collecting of this little treasure dates back to WWII when American service-men recognised the value of the plant and thousands were removed from their natural habitat and shipped to America to satisfy a growing orchid market.
The Cedros bee reminds me of our connection to the south American mainland. When I look at it I wonder how it first came to be growing here and I wonder if it crossed from the mainland centuries ago with early Tainos and capybaras. It resonates with history of my island. So if you happen to come across it growing wild somewhere in Trinidad. Enjoy it but don't take it home.

Another beauty that I met in orchid collector Sandy Gibson's garden. Lc. Flertie x Encyclia cordigera. She looks like her name - flirty.

Epidendrum stamgotianum is another frilly, flirty beauty. The true shock of an orchid is that the blooms emerge from the most unassuming, often hostile-looking foliage. The discovery of an orchid in bloom has all the excitement of a newly unwrapped present.
This is the orchid that I think of when I imagine deep, cool rivers in the forest. Zygosepalum labiosum.
And one of my favorites. I have never been able to grow it but it is still found fairly commonly in the wild. The virgin orchid. Caularthron bicornutum. The centre looks like the Virgin Mary. She is perfect with her yellow centre and mauve freckles.