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

PK