Monday, December 28, 2009

Samurai Kitty!

Sabine sniffs the air root of a Neofinetia falcata, the “Samurai orchid” or “Japanese wind orchid” from China, Korea, Japan and the Ryukyu Islands. I pronounced Neofinetia in all sorts of interesting ways until I learned its proper pronunciation from Frowine’s Miniature Orchids (Neo-fin-AY-tee-ah). The plant will be much more intriguing in six months, but it’s smart of Bean to check out all of the new ones I bring into the house. The flowers will show off a graceful white spur that curves away from three-lobed lip. This might contribute to the “samurai” name, but Samurai warriors grew the orchid and it stood as a sign of their wealth and respectability. It was difficult to find, so Samurai would demonstrate their bravery and toughness by bringing the plant back to the Japanese royal court.

Linda Fortner (aka “The Orchid Lady”) has a wonderfully informative article about the Neofinetia falcata, including a lot of fascinating material about the naming and classification of the species. This essay also provides a lot of valuable information about its history and care. The plant was first identified in 1728 and first classified into the Western orchid world in 1784. Botanists classified it in a series of different genera over the years, including as an Aerides and an Angracecum, before giving it the generic name Neofinetia (named after 19th century French botanist Achille Finet). Until 1996, falcata was the lone species attached to the genus. E.A. Christenson successfully lobbied for a second Neofinetia species by naming N. richardsiana. Richardsiana is different from falcate because it has a much shorter spur – more of a Samurai dagger than a sword.

Rebecca Tyson Northern’s book Miniature Orchids notes that it’s “a miniature version of a strap-leaf vanda” that’s “deliciously fragrant in the evening.” She tells me to, “Grow on the cool side of intermediate temperatures (pg. 115).”   Frowine’s Miniature Orchids contradicts this by advising us to treat it to an intermediate-to-warm growing environment with medium light (pgs. 144-145). Like so many other orchid-related quandaries, I’m going to entrust the kitties with giving it the proper care.

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