Friday, April 9, 2010

Orchids or Pansys or Daffodils

A couple weekends ago, I visited the Orchid Show, Cuba in Flower at the New York Botanical Gardens. It was absolutely beautiful. Though I have to admit that the orchid show they had last year was better. I think it is because, in the desire to make the show representative of how orchids grow in Cuba (among grasses and other plants, and off the sides of trees), there weren’t the majestic arrangements and walls of orchids from the previous show that would never be found in nature without careful landscaping and contriving.

Also, I had seen many of the orchids before. There were new varieties in this show that I had not remembered from the previous show, a variety that looked similar to daffodils.
There were several varieties that seemed to be crossed with some sort of pitcher plant that had bulbous bottoms. Some of the orchids that had really dazzled me before, like these deep purple beauties did not have quite the same effect the second time around. They were even placed in the same spot in the conservatory, which although the flower remained just as gorgeous, gave me a sense of been there, done that.
I will always jump at a chance to spend my day immersed in flowers, and to give me an excuse to visit my Alma Mater, Fordham University. I followed my visit to the NYBG with a nostalgic trip across campus, lunch on Arthur Ave at my favorite restaurant, bread from my favorite baker, and a box of mini chocolate covered pastries. My only disappointment was that Casa della Mozzarella was closed and I couldn’t buy several balls of cheese. It was a lovely glimpse into my past when the specialty Italian stores (butchers, bakers, pastries, and produce) were at my fingertips, and I could while away the day wandering campus or the botans.

I left the orchid show with a couple questions that I have not been able to find the answer to. My friends and I kept noticing orchids that had a strange resemblance to other flowers, like daffodils, or pansys.
I spent quite a bit of time googling the pansy orchid yesterday, and I was not able to figure out. Is it simply different kinds of orchids bred together to give the appearance of totally difference flower breeds, or is the daffodil actually crossed with an orchid, and the pansy flower the same? I could not find a website to answer my question. They were all much too technical.

So, I turned to my Great Uncle who owned a whole bunch of greenhouses while I was growing up for the answer. Luckily, his bounteous knowledge of all things flowering, and through a good friend of his who breeds orchids, I found my answer: These orchids are species orchids. They are not crossed with anything but another orchid....not any other plant like a daffodil takes years of crossing the plants to get another species, and then the breeder has to prove the change in further generations.” Thanks Uncle Gene for clearing up the mystery! They really are fascinating little flowers.

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