Saturday, 29 September 2012

Story of survival

Check out a heartwarming tale of how orchids, despite their fragile reputation, have come back to life in New Orleans after Katrina. Thanks to  volunteer Richard Bergeron and a gang of dedicated orchid maniacs, the orchid collection has been reborn, growing from a bare handful to a thriving conservatory exhibit of more than 100 specimens – with hundreds more awaiting their moment in the spotlight.

Their mission is to display the plants in a way that mimics their natural environment. No more tables stacked with blooming orchids in clay pots. According to local press, the Rain Forest exhibit features ‘Vanda orchids suspended from tree limbs, their bare roots cascading down as they would from the tree tops in their native environments. Phalaenopsis grow from the sides of fig branches, extending out horizontally because they grow that way in nature in order to avoid having water collect in their crowns’.

Meanwhile, smaller terrestrial orchids cling closer to the ground, shaded by leaves, while a vanilla orchid wraps itself around the trunk of a tree.

Astonishingly, they now have more than four times the number of orchids than they did before Hurricane Katrina struck.


Friday, 14 September 2012

A delicate breed

Orchids are always at the whim of climate. I came across a couple of intriguing articles from half a a century ago, where the delicate orchid seem to have been regarded as a yardstick of pollution.

According to the Telegraph-Herald of November 29, 1948, ‘the “cheerful open fire” which Britons worship is wilting both the nation’s housewives and its choice orchids, the National Smoke Abatement Society reports. The society says, for instance, that the smoking chimneys of Manchester make housewives toil an hour longer over their tubs on every wash day than do the wives at nearby Harrogate, the spa of northern England.

‘One of last winter’s smogs made all the orchids and orchid buds in famed Kew Gardens drop off withing twenty-four hourse. The society, long time campaigner for a smoke abatement plant like that used in St Louis, Mo., estimed smoke and smog damage in Britain costs at least $400,000,000 a year.’

The second was from in the Oxnard Press-Courier of September 10, 1956, highlighting orchid damage … again from smog.

Under a page four lead entitled ‘Nixon: controversial figure called “young man in hurry”’ and under a small headline ‘Smog injures orchid fields in bay area’, was this little gem:

‘Berkeley, Calif. Commercial orchid growers in the San Francisco Bay area have to throw away hundreds of blossoms daily because of smog damage, according to University of California professor Robert D Raabe. The assistant professor of plant pathology told an all-day symposium on air pollution that the orchid damage illustrates the spread of plant injury. Althought plant damage seems to be increasing locally, he said, it has not yet spread to major crops. Dr Lester Breslow, chief of the State Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Chronic Diseases, said there has been no evidence of health damage from smog in the bay area yet. But, he added, nobody knows what long-range effects will be produced by cancer-causing substances in smog, because the matter has not yet received enough study.’

Caption: Nelson's Column during the Great Smog of 1952