Orchid Survivors

A Guest Blog
By Bryan Naqqi Manco, DEMA

Rescued Orchid blooming in the TCNM garden.

Rescued Orchid blooming in the TCNM garden.

Orchids are often thought of as fragile exotics; rarely-but-extravagantly-flowering plants that demand pampering and coddling to even survive, and a lifetime of horticultural commitment to thrive.

Not so the rugged Encyclia orchids of the Turks & Caicos Islands. These are not the tender slipper orchids of cloud forests, or the fragile pink ladies slippers of temperate woodlands. Encyclia orchids are tough, hard, and carry their own supply of water and nutrients in swollen stems when times are lean. They forgive root disturbance and leaf damage. While most orchid growers laboriously transfer their spoiled plants into expensive teak baskets with special sterilized knives, TCI’s Encyclia orchids are happy to be thrown down the stairs and run over by a truck before being strapped unceremoniously to a tree trunk with twine and doused with a roughly-handled bucket of water.

Such is a similar story of some of the orchids in the Museum’s Botanical & Cultural Garden. Rescued from building sites by the Turks & Caicos Islands Environmental Club and under the Department of Environment & Maritime Affairs “Rescue & Collection of Endangered & Endemic Plants” Project, some of the orchids brought to the Garden have actually been run over by heavy equipment. Cared for in DEMA’s Native Plant Biodiversity Conservation Nurseries until they were ready to be transferred to the Museum  Garden, examples of all five of TCI’s native Encyclia orchids have been installed throughout 2012, right up to the end of the year, with the last installation occurring on Christmas Day.

Figure-1One of these plants, a tall Encyclia orchid Encyclia altissima planted in July 2012, has already healed so well into its home that it has blossomed profusely in the garden. Throwing a spicy, vanilla-like scent from its golden-tan blossoms on a spike nearly five feet high, the orchid will bloom for several weeks in the garden. The plant could have chosen to save its energy due to the rough time it has through May and June: rescuing from its natural habitat, which was slated for construction; crowding into a too-small area with many others of its kind; transfer to Grand Turk on a plane inside of a dark box; Hurricane Sandy’s wind and westerly salt spray; and even an instance of orchid theft in the garden. However, it has instead elected to display its adaptability and survivorship by rewarding its stewards with its grand inflorescence. Please do come by , see, and smell this extraordinary Museum’s living collection every December to January; other species of orchids will flower at different times of the year.