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Amazing Island Nature: the Elegant Orchid

March 9, 2015

Tropical islands, from the Caribbean to Tahiti, burst with gorgeous natural beauty, especially when it comes to flowers. Bougainvillea, yellow allamanda, red hibiscus, and a slew of other graceful blossoms decorate island landscapes and make us stop and appreciate just how miraculous nature is. A perennial favorite with the Island Runaways duo? That would be orchids.

(Phalaenopsis orchid in bloom. Photo (c) Zickie Allgrove.)

 

Yes, orchids bloom on the mainland, too. But there's nothing quite like appreciating orchids on a tropical island, when you're already surrounded by vibrant, lush palms with a shoreline of stunningly clear ocean.

(A blue-ish, purple vanda. Photo by Walter, Flickr.)

 

Orchidaceae, to give them their "proper" name contain over 20,000 species. There are far too many to begin to dive into describing them here. While orchids grow wild in the islands, there are people who carefully cultivate the plants, and create new hybrids. Zickie and I once visited an orchid grower in Kingston, Jamaica named Claude Hamilton, and were intrigued by the hybrids we'd never seen before. In fact, Zickie's home island has its own Jamaica Orchid Society with monthly meetings.

(Orchid at Green Castle Estate, Jamaica. Photo by Alfred Moya, Flickr.)

 

On the Hawaiian islands, flower leis are often made from dendrobium orchids. The tradition of leis first arrived in Hawaii with voyagers from the South Pacific islands, and became part of the Hawaiian culture. It's considered correct etiquette always to accept a lei if someone offers one. (Have you ever received an orchid lei? I haven't, at least not yet.)

(Dendrobium lei in Oahu, Hawaii. Photo by Calsidyrose, Flickr.)

 

One Caribbean attraction orchid lovers might want to visit? That would be Orchid World on Barbados. This garden has about 30,000 orchids -- a number which is almost hard to fathom.

(Spotted orchid at Orchid World in Barbados. Photo by Thérèse Yarde, Flickr.)

 

In southeast Florida at Island Runaways headquarters we have four phalaenopsis, which seem to be the most common orchids you find for sale in the United States, and one vanda.

(Island Runaways' orchid in bloom. Photo (c) Zickie Allgrove.)

 

In this warm, tropical climate it doesn't necessarily take much skill to grow these graceful plants. I have more respect for orchid aficionados who manage to make orchids flourish inside apartments and houses in colder climes. That's real dedication!

 

We can't resist ooahing and aahing over orchids, no matter which island we're visiting. On our trip to Guadeloupe, the Botanical Garden of Deshaies displayed some truly lovely examples. But the most exciting orchid sighting in the Caribbean? When you're simply walking along through a nature trail and spot a flowering orchid plant thriving on a tree's trunk, unheralded and not for sale, just a wild, beautiful thing.

 


We've enjoyed starting the week with a look at just one of the treasures you can find on your island travels. Do you have a particular tropical flower that you especially love?

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