Cooking up Winning Recipes with Florida-Grown Vanilla

Posted July 13th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: In the News, Warm Growers

Vanilla is a very delicious orchid, and it’s one of the most expensive flavorings in the world. The majority of vanilla beans are grown in Madagascar, and the USA imports a lot of them. Scientists are working to establish a vanilla industry in South Florida’s hot, humid climate. A plant geneticist at the University of Florida has tested hundreds of cultivars. He’s also teamed up with a Miami chocolatier to cook with vanilla from the university’s greenhouses, and it was a great success. The variety they used has many desirable traits, including high vanillin levels. They’re hoping to prove that it can become a sustainable Florida crop. If they’re successful, home-grown vanilla may find a place in America’s kitchens.

The Surprising Putty Root Orchid

Posted July 6th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Cool Growers, Orchids in the Wild, Photos

Thanks so much to my friend Carola, who has generously let me post her photos of Putty Root Orchids near her home in Virginia. She’s taken pictures over the seasons, so they illustrate a year in the life of this extraordinary North American species. These orchids boast handsome leaves with alternating green and silvery-white pinstripes. Surprisingly, the new leaves emerge in autumn, remain over winter, and then die back in spring as the plants start to bloom. The first row of photos shows the leaves in late winter, and a young flower spike popping up in May.

Aplectrum hyemale, Putty Root Orchid, Adam and Eve Plant, North American native orchid species, variegated leaves, pin-striped leaves with alternating silvery-white and green stripes, growing wild in Virginia among brown fallen leaves in late winterAplectrum hyemale, Putty Root Orchid, Adam and Eve Plant, North American native orchid species, variegated leaf, pin-striped leaf with alternating silvery-white and green stripes, growing wild in Virginia among brown fallen leaves and fallen branch in late winterAplectrum hyemale, Putty Root Orchid, Adam and Eve Plant, North American native orchid species, flower spike emerging in May, growing wild in Virginia among brown fallen leaves and fallen branch

Aplectrum hyemale has earned the nickname Putty Root Orchid because of the traditional use of its sticky mashed tubers as glue. It’s also called the Adam and Eve Plant because its tubers grow as linked pairs. The species is native to eastern Canada and much of the eastern half of the USA. After blooming in the spring or early summer, their flowers often self-pollinate. Shedding their leaves before summer lets the plants avoid heat stress. By growing fresh leaves in fall, they take advantage of extra winter sunlight coming through the bare tree branches above.

Aplectrum hyemale, Putty Root Orchid, Adam and Eve Plant, North American native orchid species, variegated leaves with flowers, growing wild in Virginia among brown fallen leaves in springAplectrum hyemale flowers, Putty Root Orchid, Adam and Eve Plant, North American native orchid species, growing wild in Virginia in springAplectrum hyemale, Putty Root Orchid, Adam and Eve Plant, North American native orchid species, variegated leaves, pin-striped leaves with alternating silvery-white and green stripes, growing wild in Virginia among brown fallen leaves and branches in October

The last two rows of pictures show the progression from spring blooms to swelling seedpods in autumn, and then winter’s cold. The final two photos below, with plants coated in ice on a chilly December day, are not what most people expect when they think of orchids.

Aplectrum hyemale seedpods, Putty Root Orchid, Adam and Eve Plant, North American native orchid species, growing wild in Virginia in autumnAplectrum hyemale, Putty Root Orchid, Adam and Eve Plant, North American native orchid species, variegated leaves covered in ice, pin-striped leaves with alternating silvery-white and green stripes, growing wild in Virginia among brown fallen leaves in DecemberAplectrum hyemale, Putty Root Orchid, Adam and Eve Plant, North American native orchid species, variegated leaves and seedpods covered in ice, pin-striped leaves with alternating silvery-white and green stripes, growing wild in Virginia among brown fallen leaves in December

Whenever discussing native plants, it’s important to remember never to take orchids from the wild. It’s illegal, and the plants don’t survive in cultivation. Take only photos, and leave only footprints. Be careful not to step on nearby vegetation if you’re admiring these surprising orchids. Photos courtesy of Carola Haas.

July Orchid Events

Posted July 1st, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Events

Most in-person orchid events are still on hold. Even as the pandemic recedes in well-vaccinated parts of the world, it can take months to organize exhibits or auctions. With hope, they can safely return soon.

July 10
North Shore Orchid Society Winter Show, Albany Village Hall, Albany Hwy. & Library Ln., Albany, Auckland, New Zealand
July 10
Hawkes Bay Orchid Society Winter Show, Clive Hall, 162 Main Rd., Clive, New Zealand
July 10
A subtribo Laeliinae no Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil, presented by Associação Portuguesa de Orquidofilia; online conference in Portuguese with Luiz Filipe Varella
July 12
American Orchid Society Judges Forum, online event; open to AOS judges, prospective judges, and those interested in joining the judging program; registration required
July 17 – 18
Waikato Orchid Society Winter Show, Hamilton Gardens, Cobham Dr., Hamilton, New Zealand
July 31
Orchid Digest Speakers Day: A Virtual Experience, expert speakers and Q&A after each presentation; $30 (USD) registration fee

Colombia’s Orchids for Peace

Posted June 26th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Conservation, In the News

Colombia is a land of orchids, home to over 4000 native species. Cattleya trianae is the beloved national flower. Sadly, the country has suffered decades of violence and political instability. A fragile peace accord has started to heal the nation. Now, Colombians like María Luisa Hincapié and her family are hoping that orchids can help to keep the peace. They’ve been growing a “Forest of Orchids,” restoring part of a denuded tropical jungle.

When María Luisa’s family bought the land in 2001, it had been scraped clean of any vegetation. The was soil dry and impoverished due to overgrazing. Since then, her family has done the work of restoring the native vegetation of the mountainside by planting a native orchid reserve—part of their shared vision to change the story of Colombia from one of violence and destruction to one of restoration and healing. With orchids.

As they’ve replanted the forest, the area has regenerated. Insects and animals have returned. The family has propagated native orchid varieties, and returned them to the wild. Many of these orchids are endangered, facing the perils of habitat destruction, illegal trafficking, shrinking numbers of pollinators, and climate change. The Hincapiés have already saved some orchids from extinction, and discovered new species. For this family of orchid addicts, it’s a labor of love to save these magnificent flowers, and to save their country, too. As I’ve blogged about before, there are others in Colombia working towards the same goals. The hashtag #orquideasparalapaz (orchids for peace) is being used to help promote their cause.

The Splendid Beauty of San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden

Posted June 20th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Misc, Photos

South Gate, large traditional Japanese garden gateway, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaPlants reflected in pond with water lilies, topiary, cloud pruning, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaCamellia flower, red white and pink flower, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Celebrate today’s summer solstice with photos from San Francisco’s exquisite Japanese Tea Garden. It’s the oldest public Japanese garden in the country, and one of many wonders of Golden Gate Park. Dave and I went there recently after we were fully vaccinated. We hadn’t been in years, and we really enjoyed visiting again. It features lots of greenery, lanterns, pagodas, winding paths, ponds, a Zen garden, and a tea house. There are numerous Japanese native plants, but I didn’t spot any orchids.

Drum Bridge with children, semicircular wooden bridge, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaLarge koi goldfish in pond with child's hand pointing at it, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaTall stone lantern in foreground with colorful plants, pond, large stones, and waterfall in background, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, close up of new green leaves, conifer, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaBronze Buddha statue, cast in 1790 in Tajima Japan, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaBamboo, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Wandering through the garden, there’s so much to discover. The elegant design provides alluring sights around every curve. Exquisitely maintained plants are each a work of art, with beauty in both their large forms and their small details. Somehow the old, large koi don’t get eaten by the park’s many raccoons or herons. The Drum Bridge, with its semi-circular arch, is fun to climb for kids and adults alike. Immersed in the garden’s charms, visitors may forget that the busy city is nearby.

Hydrangea flowers and leaves, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaDrum Bridge viewed behind tree, semicircular wooden bridge, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaTop of Temple Gate, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Stone path between trees bushes and grasses in dappled shade, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaIris flower, partially open flower, purple yellow and white flower, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaOriginal fortune cookie presses on display inside the gift shop, circa 1914, Makoto Hagiwara inventor of modern version of fortune cookie, Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

There’s plenty of fascinating history to the Japanese Tea Garden. It began in 1894 as an exhibit in an international fair. Afterwards, it was made permanent and expanded to about 5 acres (2 hectares.) Landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara and his family were its caretakers for decades, and they lived on the grounds. Sadly, they lost their home and were interned with other Japanese Americans during World War II. Fortunately, their beloved garden continues to thrive, and is one of the park’s most popular attractions. Besides the garden, Mr. Hagiwara is famous as one of the inventors of the modern fortune cookie. The first fortune cookie presses are on display inside the gift shop (shown in the final photo.)

Rare Orchids Found on London Rooftop Garden

Posted June 17th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: In the News

Eleven stories above London, the Small Flowered Tongue Orchid, Serapias parviflora, has found a home on the roof of a bank. Fifteen of the plants have bloomed on the green rooftop, which boasts 159 plant species living alongside solar panels. This is the first time that the Small Flowered Tongue Orchid has been seen in the UK since 1989. It’s more common to the south around the Mediterranean. Orchid seeds are tiny, and travel far with the wind, so they may have blown in from overseas. London’s green roofs are offering new habitats for continental arrivals.

Fake Orchid Pollen Isn’t All That Bad

Posted June 13th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: In the News

Some orchids are tricksters. They fool pollinators into thinking they offer rewards like food, or even a mate. But not all their tricks are so devious. Cypripedium wardii, a Lady Slipper native to China and Tibet, tempts bees and hoverflies with fake pollen. This pseudopollen entices insects into visiting the blooms, where they also pick up the flowers’ real pollen. However, scientists have discovered that the pseudopollen is nutritious, and the insects eat it. Since they’re receiving benefits for their work, it’s not a ruse. It’s another one of the cunning pollination strategies in the orchid family.

A Lovely Little Leptotes

Posted June 7th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Fragrant Orchids, Growing, Mini Orchids, Photos, Warm Growers

Leptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flowers, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flowers, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower and leaves, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flower, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flowers and leaves in clay pot, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flowers, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

My indoor orchid shelves don’t have much room to spare, so if I buy a warm grower, it’s got to be a miniature. At the 2020 Pacific Orchid Expo, I spotted this little charmer for sale. Leptotes pohlitinocoi has a name that I can’t pronounce, but this small Cattleya relative is definitely worth the shelf space.

Leptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flower, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flowers and leaves in clay pot, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flowers, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower and leaves in clay pot, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flower, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

Leptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flowers and leaves in clay pot, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flowers, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower and bud with broken leaf, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flower, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flower, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, California

This species is native to Brazil. Its pink and lavender flowers have a light, spicy fragrance. The skinny, pencil-like leaves indicate that it wants very bright conditions, including some full sun. Let it dry well between waterings. Despite our foggy, chilly spring, mine received enough warmth and light to bloom this year. So far, its seven flowers have lasted over six weeks.
Leptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flower, close up of flower lip, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flower, Brazilian native species, grown indoors in Pacifica, CaliforniaLeptotes pohlitinocoi, orchid species flowers and leaves, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple pink and white flowers, Brazilian native species, Pacific Orchid Expo 2009, San Francisco, CaliforniaLeptotes bicolor, orchid species flowers and leaves, miniature orchid, fragrant orchid, purple and white flowers, Brazilian native species, Pacific Orchid Expo 2018, San Francisco, California

It would be nice if mine eventually grew as large as the plant in the second to last photo, which is from Pacific Orchid Expo 2009. The final photo shows a closely related species, Leptotes bicolor, which has white petals and sepals. If you have room in your collection for a little Leptotes, they’re delightful and easy to grow.

June Orchid Events

Posted June 1st, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Events

June brings a few online and in-person events. For SF Bay Area residents, don’t miss this month’s SF Orchid Society Sale. There was a great selection of plants at last year’s sale.

June 5
Curso Básico Virtual de Cultivo de Orquídeas, presented by the Sociedad Colombiana de Orquideología; online class in Spanish; $50 or $100 Colombian Pesos ($14 or $27 US Dollars) to register
June 5 – 6
Orchid Council of New Zealand National Judging Seminar, Pakuranga Bowling Club, 451 Pakuranga Rd., Pakuranga, Auckland, New Zealand
June 11 – 23
San Francisco Orchid Society (SFOS) Members’ Plant Sale, order plants online; SFOS members-only access begins on June 9th; purchases must be picked up on Sunday, June 27th at Shelldance Orchid Gardens, 2000 California Highway 1, Pacifica, California
June 22 – 23
Orchid Conservation Symposium, free online talks by experts from Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong, UK, and Germany; 12:30 pm – 5:15 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time both days
June 26 – 27
North Shore Orchid Society Winter Show, Albany Village Hall, Albany Hwy. & Library Ln., Albany, Auckland, New Zealand

An Introduction to East Asian Cymbidiums

Posted May 27th, 2021 by Marc Cohen
Categories: Videos

Check out the video below for an expert introduction to East Asian Cymbidiums. These orchids grow differently than most others in their genus. Although they’ve been cultivated in China for thousands of years, there’s little care info available in English. The video covers their historical significance in East Asia, variations in flowers and leaves that are treasured by many growers, and cultivation needs, with calendars showing seasonal care.