Samurai Orchid

Centuries before the western world became fascinated with orchids, some eastern cultures were cultivating and revering them. For over 400 years, Japanese have grown fuu ran, the “wind orchid.” It’s known in English as Neofinetia, or the Samurai Orchid. This mini species is native to mountainside forests in southern Japan, southern Korea, and eastern China. Japanese nobles and samurai admired its beauty, elegance, and serenity. Over time, its admirers also lent this species the Japanese name fuuki ran, “rich and noble orchid.”

Neofinetia flower close upNeofinetia flowersNeofinetia flowers

The Samurai Orchid has charming, bird-like flowers, and a rich, sweet vanilla scent in the evening. Its small size, tolerance for cold, and close relation to the Phal and Vanda families make it a popular choice as an orchid hybrid parent. Ascofinetia, Neostylis, and Darwinara are just a few of the hybrids with Neofinetia roots.

Neofinetia flowers side view, showing nectar spursNeofinetia flower close upNeofinetia flowers and plant in moss

Japanese growers have been especially fascinated by the Samurai Orchid’s natural variations in flower colors, leaf colors, and leaf shapes. Typically, the flowers are pure white, but rare color mutations have been discovered and cultivated. Flower forms now come in yellow, green, pink, and magenta. Diminutive green leaves in a fan pattern are most common, but some varieties have leaves with stripes or splotches of color. Others have twisted leaves and even misshapen flowers. The rarest forms can sell for thousands of dollars.

Neofinetia flower side view, showing nectar spurPurple Neofinetia flowers and plant in mossNeofinetia flowers with purple stems

Nowadays in Japan, Samurai Orchids are beloved as cultural treasures, and often grown in moss in traditional bonsai pots. They require shade, frequent water, and warm temps in the summer. During winter dormancy, they need full sun, less water, and cool temps.

Variegated Neofinetia plant, potted traditionally in mossPurple Neofinetia flowersYellow Neofinetia flower

Many people are surprised that samurai cared so much for these tiny plants. Best known, of course, for their warrior skills, they also cultivated artistic talents, such as calligraphy, painting, music, or raising wind orchids. My friends and family know that orchids aren’t my only obsession — I’ve been studying Aikido, a Japanese martial art, for over 2 decades. I’m not a samurai, but I am happy to honor this artistic tradition in my training.  I’m especially proud when my Neofinetia blooms, and I can enjoy an emblem of samurai history.

Explore posts in the same categories: Dormancy, Fragrant Orchids, Intermediate Growers, Mini Orchids, Photos, Watering

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7 Comments on “Samurai Orchid”

  1. Rachel Says:

    Great blog post!

  2. nancy Says:

    I love the shape of the flower. Those are remarkable little flowers. Thanks so much for this interesting post!

  3. Brian (aka temperance) Says:

    I’ve been away from the internet, but wanted to jump in late on this post to say: great post! Fantastic photos!

    I’d add that, although the delicacy of the flowers seems at odds with the toughness of the samurai who coveted them, retrieving this hard-to-find species from the wild was seen as super brave and daring. I have the appropriate links on my cat/orchid blog: http://catsandcatts.blogspot.com/2009/12/samurai-kitty.html

    You clearly have a better touch with this species than I do. I have one that I’ve moved from coconut husk to pine bark — from outside in the summer to inside — with a catt-like watering schedule to a Paph.-like schedule. It’s the only vanda-type I have in my collection and I can’t figure out its watering needs. It’s not dying, it’s just not thriving. But your photos give me hope of what it could become — so thanks!

  4. Hideo Takahashi Says:

    Sorry for my bad english. Thank you so much for your good post. Your post helped me in my college assignment.

  5. Betsy 77 Says:

    Thanks for writing so informative post. Cheers

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  7. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » Wacky Weather Says:

    [...] Even though a few dry days went over 8o°F (27°C,) the Masdevallias, Odonts, and Samurai Orchids were ok.[...]