Thursday, 10 November 2011

Nice Things About Living in Tropics

One of the nice things about living in the tropics is the opportunity to grow unusual plants. Of course, unusual plants grow everywhere but the tropical ones are so spectacular.The Vanilla Orchid, Vanilla planifolia, is one such oddity. Yes, vanilla is an orchid. And you probably did not know that it originates from Mexico. It must be hand-pollinated and done promptly as the flower lasts only for a day. The high cost of vanilla probably is a result of this labour intensive activity. The "vanilla bean" takes about 6-9 months to mature and when it turns brown and starts to smell like vanilla, it is ready to pick

The Vanilla Orchid grows as a vine. It must be about 3m long in order to set flowers. It also requires that it eventually be trained to droop downwards to prompt it to flower.
Flowers come in clusters and never fully open. There is considerable variation to the colour of the flowers. Ours are entirely green, others can have a yellow lip.

This is Amorphophallus bulbifera, Devil's Tongue Lily. I've written about this before but each year it is so spectacular that it deserves some mention. When it firsts flowers, it gives off an odour much like LPG. But this lasts for only a few days. If it gets pollinated by flies or other insects, it develops seeds. This plant has the capacity to spread as rodents , birds and some insect move the seeds about and they readily germinate.
A. bulbifera after flowering and in seed.


Denis Wilson said...

Your Arum is a striking flower.
I have several of their cooler-growing cousins here. Must go down into the wilderness and see if they are in flower.
Love your Vanilla Orchid.

Mr. Smiley said...

Thanks Denis. It's fun growing these oddities.