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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008


Ran (Orchid)

So much in bloom:
But don't forget your fragrance,
Orchid flower.

By Tagami Kikusha (1753-1826)

It is a little early for a spring haiku, but I could not resist starting the year with this cheerful, winter-flowering orchid. A friend gave me this plant two years ago, and after it finished flowering I kept it on a warm windowledge where it occasionally produced a new leaf or two. Otherwise it looked very dull and sleepy. I almost gave up, but suddenly, in the new year, it started sending out slender stems and now the plant is full of velvety flowers with a faint, grassy fragrance. There are over 17,000 wild orchids known in the world, and countless hybrids, so it has been a bit difficult to identify my humble house plant. However, I believe it is one of the Vuylstekeara hybrids known as Cambria. This type dates back to 1910, when a Belgian horticulturalist, Charles Vuylsteke, combined three wild orchids from the New World tropical families known as Cochlioda, Miltonia and Odontoglossum. The result was a new hybrid orchid with flat, red flowers, bright-yellow centers and pretty markings on the lower lip. Each flower on the Cambria variety is about 5 cm wide and the sprays last for six or so weeks. Although orchids can be difficult to grow, this one is not so fussy about temperature and light because of its mixed parentage. However, from now on I will pamper my house plant with rainwater and filtered sunlight in the hopes of a long, blossoming life.

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