Monday, September 20, 2010

What's the name of this orchid?

Tickle the soil with a hoe and it smiles and gives you a harvest? Alas, not for me. I’ve a backyard that I tried to charm into a garden but vegetables don’t seem to like me. I’m somewhat luckier with flowers. though.

Several years ago, I had the good fortune to notice this plant growing in the soil under a mango tree outside a friend’s rented house. It was blooming then, and the spike which contained the blooms was lying on the ground. I thought this kind of orchid must be an epiphytic—a plant that grows above ground by attaching itself to a host, such as a tree, but unlike a parasite it doesn’t take nutrients from its host. High up in a tree, the spikes (stems which bear the flowers) could dangle down and display its flowers proudly. This particular orchid, however, had been planted in the dirt and the blooms were a sorry sight.

Knowing how much I liked orchids, Zuraidah gave me permission to tease a keiki (baby plant) out of the mother plant. I attached this plantlet to the branches of a bush, watered it and occasionally reminded it to bear flowers. It produced a single, long spike several years later. And from that time it bloomed once or twice a year.

A few moths ago the orchid produced five spikes. They first appeared as tiny shoots with little blobs. They grew longer each day until each was more than a metre long. The blobs lengthened into buds and were attached about seven centimetres apart on each spike (closer together towards the tip). There were twelve to thirteen flowers on each spike and together they looked like pretty garlands.

The orange-red-white blooms lasted for several days and when they fell off, a seed pod appeared on two of the spikes, tiny at first and swelling gradually until each was much bigger than my finger. When one pod finally dropped off, I cut it open. I thought it would contain tiny seeds—orchids produce the tiniest seeds—but there was nothing except some grainy-looking gob. I put the cut pod in an orchid pot to see if anything would grow but I guess the rain has washed everything away.

I’m quite certain this is not a hybrid. I see orchid hybrids for sale everywhere but I’ve never seen this type. It probably belongs to the aerides (air-ri-deez) family and is native to this part of the world. I’m still trying to find out its name. Has anyone seen this orchid before? Any orchid expert out there? Hellooo?


  1. It's a type of Cymbidium...I do not know if it's a species or hybrid...but an ID to the genus level should help a bit.


  2. So it's a type of Cymbidium.. Thanks, Prem!