Posts filed under ‘Orchids’
We think our Smithsonian Gardens volunteers are awesome! From helping out in the Archives of American Gardens and greenhouses to volunteering as interpreters in our exhibits and gardens, volunteers help sustain some of our most important projects and serve as terrific ambassadors to our visitors.
This winter, over forty volunteers signed up to share their enthusiasm for orchids with visitors to our Orchids of Latin America exhibit. Their knowledge, love for all things orchid, and great people skills mean that those who come to see the exhibit have the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the beautiful plants on display. If you have yet to visit the exhibit, make some time to stop by the National Museum of Natural History’s special exhibition gallery to see the beautiful display and say “hi” to the volunteers working there.
Although the orchid exhibit ends April 21st, many of our volunteer interpreters are staying on with Smithsonian Gardens to interact with the public in the gardens this spring through fall. If you are interested in meeting great people and sharing your love of plants with visitorsfrom around the world, think about joining us out in the gardens. We are always excited to welcome new volunteers and interpreters to our team! For more information or to volunteer, visit the web or send us an email.
-Alison Kootstra, Education & Outreach Intern
La Institución de Smithsonian tiene una larga historia de la recolección de plantas para compartir su belleza con el mundo. ‘Smithsonian Gardens’ sigue compartiendo esta tradición a través de su colección de orquídeas. Esta colección ha aumentado desde 1974 cuando adquirieron las primeras cinco plantas. Desde entonces, la colección de orquídeas ha florecido enormemente y hoy tenemos a más de 8,000 especies en nuestro invernadero.
Las plantas que forman esta colección son utilizadas para elevar la belleza y la maravilla de los museos Smithsonian. Cada año podemos disfrutar la gran variedad de sus brillantes colores y formas cuando muestran sus encantadoras flores. Aprovechen y celebren estas maravillosas plantas cuando visiten a los museos Smithsonian. Podrán ver orquídeas que representan a países tan lejanos como China o más cercanos como nuestros vecinos de México. La exposición este año celebran Las Orquídeas de Latinoamérica. Visiten y admiren las bellas flores exóticas que tenemos en exhibición en el Museo Nacional de Historia Natural y reciban más información y detalles que les ofrecemos en español e inglés.
- Sarah Mirabal, Orchid Intern
The Smithsonian Orchid Collection’s species orchids represent over 30% of all accessions and the collection contains approximately 2500 individual plants and 800 different species, most of which are rarely used for public display. As a contractor for the Smithsonian Orchid Section, I am working to provide accurate and up to date collection information to several different online collection sites, where scientists, researchers, conservationists, and the curious explorer alike can access data about the orchid species that are cared for in the Smithsonian Gardens Suitland Greenhouse complex. Ultimately, our hope is that the assessment of the orchid collection, along with a review of collections management policies and virus protocols, will lead to the submission of an application to join the North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC), an organization comprised of botanic gardens and arboreta across the country dedicated to plant conservation and germplasm preservation.
The most publicly available of these collection sites, which will be actively utilized for the duration of the annual orchid exhibit, is the Encyclopedia of Life. The Encyclopedia of Life is a growing resource for compiled information about all life on Earth. The beauty of the website is that you can search for any species by Latin name or common name and be exposed to a wealth of information about its distribution, habitat, behavior, taxonomy, you name it! Although many less common species are lacking full records, this resource has the potential to connect numerous people and organizations through shared species in collections. The Smithsonian Orchid Section has created a collection for all of their named species orchids and can be found specifically by searching the EOL for SOC Species Orchids. This is an easily accessible list of our collection contents online, and will hopefully be an interesting, if not valuable resource in the near future as more information is added.
This year, for the 2013 orchid exhibit, Orchids of Latin America, each week a watch list will be produced in the Encyclopedia of Life highlighting species orchids from the Smithsonian Orchid Collection that can be found in the exhibit. The watch list link will be tweeted via Smithsonian Gardens on Friday morning right before a brand new delivery of orchids so you have the most up to date reference for the exhibit. Don’t forget, the watch list is just species orchids and there will be many more beautiful hybrids in the exhibit that you won’t want to miss!
-Julie Rotramel, Living Collections Contractor
At Orchids of Latin America, the 2013 annual Orchid Exhibition, you can explore the rich crossroads where orchid botany, horticulture, and Latin American cultures meet. Learn about the importance of orchids in Latin American folklore and cultural traditions, see how the region is a hotbed for scientific research on orchid biology and evolution, and discover conservation efforts to preserve orchids and their habitats for future generations. And, of course, enjoy the beautiful orchids from the Smithsonian Gardens and the U.S. Botanic Garden Orchid Collections.
On Saturday, February 23, 2013, join us for ¡Fiesta de las Or-KID-ias! a free family festival celebrating Orchids of Latin America. At the fiesta, you can help make a beautiful orchid mosaic and paper orchid garlands, pot your own orchid to take home, and talk with experts about a display of unique plants from our collection. Other fun activities include face painting and temporary tattoos!
Orchids of Latin America is hosted by Smithsonian Gardens, the National Museum of Natural History, and the United States Botanic Garden with support from the Smithsonian Latino Center. The exhibit will run from January 26th through April 21st at the National Museum of Natural History.
-Sarah Watling, Education Intern
Orchids in our greenhouses aren’t immune to disease (unfortunately), and when virus symptoms appear, steps must be taken to remove any infected plant to prevent viruses from spreading and to preserve the overall health of the collection. Cymbidium mosaic virus and Odontoglossum ringspot virus are the most common orchid viruses, and symptoms include black spots on flowers, general discoloration, and decreased flower production. For orchid growers, these symptoms are a nightmare, since their job is to grow display worthy orchids with “wow” factor.
Rucha Shevade, a former collection intern, has been diligently virus testing numerous orchids in the collection for both viruses using the Agdia Orchid ImmunoStrip test. To test a plant, Rucha will crush a small piece of orchid tissue in a buffer solution to create a liquid test sample, and then insert an ImmunoStrip into the sample for 2-4 minutes. Each strip has a colored control line which must appear for the test to be valid, and a colored line for each of the viruses that are being tested for in the event they are positive. If a plant tests negative for both viruses, it is given a tag that is labeled “VIRUS FREE.” Ideally, every plant in the collection would receive a virus free tag, but many orchids have to be thrown out.
Luckily there are several ways to prevent and limit virus infection and transmission in the collection. Orchid curator Sarah Hedean is a stickler for “good culture,” which she says is the key to maintaining a healthy collection of beautiful plants. Good culture starts with choosing virus free plants. This means looking for symptoms and testing plant tissue for viruses before an orchid is even brought into the collection. The next step to good culture is to have high housekeeping standards, which can limit pest presence in the greenhouse. This includes things like having good air circulation, keeping benches and floors clean and removing dead leaves from plants. Finally, good culture involves limiting contact between plants, and ultimately limiting potential virus transmission. This means spacing plants evenly along benches, and disinfecting tools such as scissors after they have been used on a single orchid.
Check out the AOS page about orchid viruses and virus testing for more information.
Julie Rotramel, Orchids Intern
The great thing about the annual orchid exhibit is that it is constantly changing. There is always something new to see since different kinds of orchids bloom at different times of the winter and spring. In April, you can expect to see a lot more Dendrobium nobiles and related hybrids. Nobile Dendrobiums are unique from other orchids and even other types of Dendrobiums, for several reasons. They are deciduous, which means their leaves fall off each year before flowering. This helps the plant retain water during the dry winter months, and it is thought this may also improve pollination odds in the wild. Nobile Dendrobium species also require a cool period each fall or winter to promote flowering. This cool period is easy to mimic at the Smithsonian Greenhouses since the seasons of this area are similar to that of Dendrobium nobile’s native habitat. Nobile hybrids do not necessarily adhere to the same behavior that the species do, and many of the newer hybrids do not require cool winter nights and will maintain their foliage throughout the growing season!
Our Greenhouse staff have been working hard to prepare the Nobiles for display; take a look!
It is hard not to appreciate the beauty of an orchid in bloom. Right now, at the exhibit Orchid Mystique: Nature’s Triumph, visitors are able to partake in a lot of orchid appreciation. Seeing the colorful throng of orchids in the Garden Court at the U.S. Botanic Garden is a tremendous sight, but don’t get completely distracted by the panorama. Take a look at the details!
Individual orchid flowers are a world of color, pattern, shape, size, smell and texture, especially the modified third petal which is called the lip or labellum. This part of the flower helps to attract an orchid’s pollinator and can serve as a landing pad for insects like bees, moths, butterflies, and flies. Every orchid species or cultivar has a characteristically different labellum and it is amazing to see the different adaptations and variations that are present. Here are just a few fantastic flower designs that you can find at the exhibit.
Visit Orchid Mystique: Nature’s Triumph for more information.
Julie Rotramel, Orchids Intern
This year’s exhibit observes the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of the cherry blossom trees to Washington, D.C., by presenting our orchids around the Conservatory in serene settings evocative of Japanese gardens to complement the thousands of orchids on display. The tranquility of the Japanese aesthetic invites appreciation of the beauty, form and exquisite floral complexity of nature’s most diverse plant family.
Julie Rotramel, Orchids Intern