Monday, November 30, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The C. labiata is one of the most famous plants in Orchidaceae because it was the first of the large-flower Cattleyas to be identified, and it has a compelling story of being "lost" in the 1820's and "rediscovered" in 1889. (I put "lost" and "rediscovered" in quotation marks because I assume that some of the native peoples of Brazil saw this plant all the time.)
Cattleya labiata entered the Western botanical world after it was discovered by William Swainson in Pernambuco Brazil in early 1817. In 1818, Swainson reportedly returned to England with over 20,000 insects, 1,200 plant species, hundreds of bird skins, and a goodly number of fish. His apparent obsession with bugs might explain why he didn't marry until 1823. Anyway, Swainson sent the labiata specimen to John Lindley and, in 1821, Lindley formally named the genus after his patron, William Cattley.
William Swainson left for New Zealand and, without a high-speed Internet connection, the English horticulturalists (who were going bananas over the C. labiata) had no way to contact him. Also, from what I've read, these explorer types were often reluctant to share their knowledge of where to find precious flowers. Some people thought that the plant could be found in Rio de Janerio because Swainson made his shipments from Rio. No luck. So, this plant, whose flowers Lindley described as exceptionally large and beautiful, disappeared from Western view for over seventy years.
Chadwick and Chadwick's 2006 book The Classic Cattleyas, published by Timber Press, gives the definitive account of the discovery and 1889 rediscovery of C. labiata. (Chadwick and Sons Orchids, by the way, offer several rare C. labiata plants for sale on their website.) Their account of the rediscovery of C. labiata is definitive, in my opinion, because they consider and reject competing explanations for why the plant came back into English society in the late 19th century. They also examine why some of the tall tales became popular. This is unique because other accounts I've read either champion a single explanation or they simply list the different theories and let the reader decide.
There are at least two apocryphal tales told about the discovery and rediscovery of this plant. In the first, C. labiata was discovered because someone used them as packing material for a shipment of lichens sent to William Cattley. Cattley threw them in a corner of his greenhouse and, with healthy neglect, they bloomed. The true account is much more straightforward: Swainson sent a C. labiata specimen to Lindley.
The second tall tale is that the species was rediscovered when someone knowledgeable about orchids spotted C. labiata on a lady's corsage at an evening ball. Again, the most likely and realistic account is also the most boring. Some guy (who wasn't really into flowers) had some C. labiatas from his collector in Pernambuco. Some other guy, who knew a lot about orchids, was visiting while the flowers were blooming, and he soon thereafter recognized them as the "lost" species.
Despite Chadwick and Chadwick's book, and despite informative site like Garden Notes, the dubious tales surrounding the C. labiata will likely persist. I say this because both stories are repeated as established fact, with no accompanying references or citations, in Susan Orlean's best-selling The Orchid Thief (see pages 65 and 69). Andrew Weil's blurb on the inside cover says, "The Orchid Thief provides further, compelling evidence that truth is stranger than fiction," but Orlean's bungling of the C. labiata story makes me wonder about that. .
Friday, November 20, 2009
The photo on the right shows Ted sitting on the Pluerothallis, staring at the Bulbophyllum. Maybe he's looking at the spike poke out underneath the left-most leaf of the Bulbophyllum? I was a little worried that Ted was going to crush these small plants during an afternoon cricket hunt but, as of this writing, he's left the spike alone, it's extended a couple of centimeters, and I think its tiny flowers are about to open. Stay tuned . . .
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The victim here is a Cattleya hybrid from Oak Hills Gardens. It’s not yet flowering size but – if it does – it should produce large white flowers with a complex lacey lip. It’s a cross between C. Joyce Hannington and C. Empress Bells ‘White Sands.’ Joyce Hannington was registered as a new hybrid in 1945 (C. Barbara Dane x C.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sabine towers over a C. maxima seedling that I picked up from Clackamas Orchids. The other image is a maxima from Warner and William’s 11-volume illustrated series The Orchid Album, published in London from 1882-1897. The maxima species is found in
Sabine (or “Bean” as she’s known around these parts) is concerned about the yellowing leaf. She’s read on the OrchidBoard that seedlings need more water, and she encourages me to water the babies when they need water, not necessarily to water them on a set schedule. So, I’m going to try Bean’s advice and we’ll see how it goes.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Selena Sabine remembers the evening in scary fragments. Towering men. The smell of booze, stale pizza, and gasoline. A bet. A dare. Cruel machismo. One yanked her tail. Another pulled at her tiny head. A third revved up the truck. A crowd of six or seven men, representing a mentality and a slice of inhumanity no one likes to think about, prepared to crush a tiny black kitten just for kicks. From a distance, an extremely cute girl surmised what was going to happen and rushed in front of the pizza place and confronted the men. Her adorable cheeks scrunched up with rage as she let loose with screams of outrage and threats of immanent police involvement. As the men backed off, the then-nameless kitten looked up at her angel and tried to meow. She took her to her car and thought “Okay, I guess I have another cat.”
Over a decade later, Sabine is safe in the orchid room, looking at a Cattleya bowringiana that’s about 2-3 years from flowering, purchased from Clackamas Orchids. This species is native to