AOS News – March 2015

Where is the American Orchid Society anyway? I mean, physically.

So I had a thought. If the American Orchid Society represents the entire U.S. and in addition, has members from other countries, where is it? Physically, I mean. Pretty much everywhere I send a credit card payment is to some nebulous nowhere in Oklahoma City or Peyton, VI. It wouldn’t surprise me to find a warehouse was rented somewhere where no one goes, and was proclaimed “The American Orchid Society.”

Well, you might have already surmised that, in researching this, I found out the location of ‘nebulous nowhere’ is the incorrect answer. In fact, I just returned from a wonderful week visiting the Florida Everglades, where I photographed some nice examples of orchids living in a tree (below). It turns out, I WAS RIGHT NEXT DOOR to the American Orchid Society headquarters for three days and didn’t know it. Rats!

The Society was ‘born’ in 1921, but in 2012 partnered with the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens. It moved its offices to the Fairchild Campus in Coral Gables, FL, in metropolitan Miami.

More than a century ago, South Florida was a natural orchid paradise. Masses of orchids blanketed every branch of every oak and mahogany tree. Settlers marveled at the intense beauty and fragrances during Miami’s springtime orchid flowering season.

In the late 1800s, as the Florida East Coast Railroad extended southward, orchids were among the first natural resources to be exploited. Millions of flowering orchids were ripped from the trees and packed into railroad cars, to be sold in northern flower shops. Orchid populations dwindled to catastrophically low levels and orchid habitat disappeared. Today, native Florida orchids exist in such small numbers that they have no hope of recovering on their own, despite the fact that oak and mahogany trees have been making a comeback throughout South Florida. Two orchid species still occur naturally at Fairchild Gardens. These are the Florida butterfly orchid (Encyclia tampensis), lower left, and the cowhorn orchid (Cyrtopodium punctatum) lower right. Both flower regularly in the garden, though have little chance of propagating on their own.

In a program called the Million Orchid Project, Fairchild is proposing to propagate millions of native orchids in test tubes for reintroduction into South Florida’s urban landscapes. The new Micropropagation Laboratory at Fairchild will generate a limitless supply of young native orchid plants. Local school landscapes and urban tree plantings will be the primary recipients of Fairchild’s reintroduction initiatives. Their goal is to have the first generation of reestablished orchids blooming throughout South Florida within five years. And this is all because the American Orchid Society decided to partner with Fairchild. Go visit!

Finally, don’t forget to check out the AOS awards for February, by going to http://www.csnjc.org/. There were 7 orchids awarded!