Orchids found on every continent except Antarctica

Top: The Monkey Face orchid resembles a monkey's face. Above: Vanda Miss Joaquim was selected as Singapore's national flower on April 15, 1981.
Above :This tiger orchid plant at the Singapore Botanic Gardens could be one of the oldest in the world. PHOTOS: TNP FILE, ST FILE
Above: This tiger orchid plant at the Singapore Botanic Gardens could be one of the oldest in the world. Left: A close-up view of a tiger orchid.
Above: A close-up view of a tiger orchid.PHOTOS: NPARKS, ST FILE
Above: The Monkey Face orchid resembles a monkey's face.
Above: The Monkey Face orchid resembles a monkey's face.
Above: Vanda Miss Joaquim was selected as Singapore's national flower on April 15, 1981.
Above: Vanda Miss Joaquim was selected as Singapore's national flower on April 15, 1981.

INTERESTING ORCHID FACTS

  • There are about 20,000 species of orchids in all, and they are found on every continent except Antarctica.
  • Singapore used to have more than 220 native orchid species, but the majority have disappeared due to habitat loss.
  • Orchids vary hugely in size. The tiger orchid (which is native to Singapore), can weigh up to 2 tonnes. On the other hand, the central American Platystele jungermannioides is much smaller than a human finger.
  • Only about 60 of our native species remain, mostly in the forests of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
  • The ubiquitous vanilla flavouring actually comes from vanilla orchids.
  • Orchids can trick insects into pollinating them. Spider orchids, for example, give off scents that resemble female wasps. This attracts male wasps to them, which end up pollinating them.

SINGAPORE'S NATIONAL ORCHID: VANDA MISS JOAQUIM

  • Vanda Miss Joaquim was selected as the country's national flower on April 15, 1981.
  • Just like Dendrobium Kiat Tan, it is a hybrid created from crossing two flowers.
  • Its two parent flowers, which were known as the Vanda hookeriana and Vanda teres, were actually shown to be from the Papilionanthe family, which means that our national flower is now scientifically known as the Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim. However, it is still commonly known as Vanda Miss Joaquim.
  • The flower was created by horticulturist Agnes Joaquim, an Armenian woman living in Singapore in the 19th century.
  • It is the first registered plant hybrid from Singapore.

'DISCOVERY' OF THE ANCIENT TIGER ORCHID

  • An orchid plant in the Singapore Botanic Gardens could be one of the oldest in the world, having grown in the same spot for more than 150 years.
  • Dr Nigel Taylor, group director of the gardens, found out about the plant's history when digging into archival material for the site's bid as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
  • It is now 5m in diameter.
  • Sprays of the tiger orchid and the Renanthera Singapore Botanic Gardens (another hybrid orchid special to the gardens) line the bottom of a commemorative coin the Monetary Authority of Singapore issued to celebrate the gardens' successful bid as a Unesco site.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2017, with the headline 'Orchids found on every continent except Antarctica'. Print Edition | Subscribe