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Discussion Starter #1
Hello everyone: In the Spring of next year, I will most likely be starting an independent study with the general theme being orchids, paphs more specifically. However, what is (hopefully) going to set my project apart is that I am going to attempt to create something final that will aid a larger community more so than a large amount of studies that aid a minority of very specifically educated, research-oriented professionals. With that being said, I am looking to find out what anyone out there has to say about orchids: do you find there to not be enough information? do you think you do not have enough exposure to them? have you tried to buy them, and, if so, were daunted by the multitude of species and relatively (sometimes) inconsistent information? are you somewhat frightened when you buy a hybrid that consists of even more hybrids and you have no idea where it came from? if you do have extensive experience in orchids, as I know a lot of you do (way more than me), what is your biggest issue with them? do you find there to be one problem that rises above the others (such as the need to maybe find an easier way to more quickly propagate paphs)? or do you simply find there is way too little knowledge about the natural history of orchids and the rather scary situation they are in in the wild? As I hope you can see, you can basically say anything that is on your mind.

Thanks for reading and for helping.
-shawn
 

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Well I will throw my two cents in here. I study the physiology of photosynthetic velamentous roots among members of the Orchidaceae, so I spend a lot of time working with and thinking about orchids, both as a researcher and a hobbyist. I think that there are very few people out there that would say they are daunted by the number of available orchid species. Quite the opposite, as species orchids can be difficult to come by these days (especially if you collect something strange like Vanillas). It’s the number of hybrids that is staggering. This is probably related to a few driving factors, namely hybrid vigor and the relative easy with which orchids can be sexually propagated now a days. Not to mention the shear vanity of many hobbyist.

The amount of information we have about orchids is also staggering. It is relatively easy to find information about them geared towards any level of expertise. Walk into any bookstore and you will find a vast array of texts geared towards the lay person dealing with all aspects of orchid culture. A quick search on the net reveals much the same.

The inconsistencies in information surrounding orchids are due in large part to the constant state of flux surrounding their taxonomy. It seems many orchids change name on an almost monthly basis, making it virtually impossible to keep up with their current name or keep information connected with that name. Also, it is difficult in many cases to make generalities, which most non-technical texts attempt to do, about their culture on even as small as the generic level. This often leads to conflicting information. But with the 25,000 to 30,000 species in the family and tens of thousands of hybrids, it is difficult to provide information about each particular species or hybrid.

The issue of production is an interesting one. If you think the time it takes to produce an orchid is slow now, imaging what it was like before all the wonderful advances that have made tissue culture and seed flasking simple enough to do in your kitchen (not to mention the shear ability to propagate orchids by these means at all). The 20$ orchid is truly a recent occurrence in the history of orchid culture. And frankly I don’t foresee any major advances speeding up the process.

The state of orchids in the wild is an issue surrounded by as much politicking and personal agendas as the state of rainforest, meaning unbiased facts are rarely presented. While in some places many orchids are very threatened by habitat destruction or loss of pollinators, it is not across the board. It also tends to be the situations of very specialized orchids that are presented as the status quo for the family. Not all orchids can only be pollinated by one rare insect nor do all orchids exist in such small populations that collection of a single individual could spell the extinction of the species. Not to say these situations don’t exist or that they are unimportant, because they are real issues that need to be addressed. Just don’t get caught up in all the hype. There are many orchids that do quite well in light of human activities, even a few invasive orchids out there.

I am more concerned with the degradation of the orchid gene pool do to rampant hybridization by collectors. This should be an issue many of you can understand given the passionate anti hybridization views held by the dart frog hobby.

I think the biggest problem that has kept many people away from orchids is a long held dogma that they are difficult to grow, rare, and expensive. For most species orchids this holds true to this day. But with the vast array of cheap vigorous hybrids this just is not the case, and because of this that perception is starting to fade and the popularity of orchids has sky rocketed in recent years. But you still find many people ingrained with that view of orchids.

Anyway, that’s pretty much my two cents on the subject. I hope it helps you with shaping your independent study.
 

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As an orchid enthusiast only by way of success with orchids thriving in dart frog terrariums, I would say that the only inconsistency I see in information on orchids is a very narrow-mindedness in orchid culture spawned by people who raise them only in greenhouses. I really believe that orchids are far more versatile and resilient than most growers give them credit. They are far more easy than most make them out to be, and the amount of information we are given to be successful with them is staggering . . . even without venturing outside the Internet.
 
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Discussion Starter #4
Jhupp I was hoping you would reply and you did not disappoint at all. First off, I completely understand what you are saying about the information available (to illustrate the sheer ease of finding information, I, for one, have managed to educate myself enough in the last two years to the point where I have a quite successful collection of paphs, never once encountering the "initial scare" many assume always happens when starting with orchids. As a side note, I concentrate on species paphs and have umm, 8 or so species I think and 4 hybrids in my own miniature greenhouses in my apartment at school, in addition to miniature dendrobiums and two lembroglossums.). What may be an interesting issue regarding the information available would be the sheer overload of information which some may find daunting when starting out. As both you and Homer said, it once again comes back to the initial fear that many people still hold about orchids (and, if this is something I am going to work with eventually, I may start thinking about some feasible course of action to take...). In terms of propagation, what you say is very true and something I think as well, however, I would love to see some sort of more stable meristem-esque propagation technique for paphs. However, I make no claims to even barely understand the scientific aspect of this process, thus what I am saying may be complete nonsense... Additionally, in yet another view expressed by you and others I have asked, the over-hybridization is scary... I want something to be done and if it takes consulting with some of the leading nurseries to help, I think I may have to try (yet again, I haven't even begun to think about how.). Thanks a lot.

Once again, if anybody else wishes to say anything at all on any subject regarding orchids, please, speak your mind.

Jhupp, if you have any other comments ("Shawn, that's moronic," "That's way off," etc.), go right ahead.

-shawn
 
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Discussion Starter #5
I am getting more into orchids also. After picking up 4 pleurothallids at NWFF from Jon Werner they are some of the neatest plants I have.I have one that has been losing it's leaves so I have moved it to a differet area so it gets less moisture and less light.I hope it helps it out.I alos have a Restripia contorta that just hasn't done a thing for about 2 months but still is green so time for a change for it also.
Like you Shawn, I also have a few paphs and keep them on trays against an east well that is right beside our deck doors so they get indirect light and have grown alot this summer and one is just sending up a spike.
They just part of a collection my sister gave me for helping her move. Most of the 18 plants are small and some are not situated in a good enough place for them but I try to set the ones that need more light on the side of the baker's rack closest to the window.
As for hybrids, aren't the easiest paphs the mottled leaves easiest to grow ?
Mark W.
 
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Discussion Starter #6
as a general rule, hybrids will be easier to grow than species; as jhupp said, hybrids are easier to find and, "This is probably related to a few driving factors, namely hybrid vigor and the relative easy with which orchids can be sexually propagated now a days." as for mottled versus green leaved paphs, i have grown mine both the same although there is a little argument over this: mottled leaves need less light, green leaves need more light, and warmer and cooler growing... however, i believe this is more species specific than an overall generalization.

any issues out there?

-shawn
 

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Shawn,

I think the idea of consulting with growers to deal with the hybrid issue is novel, but I can foresee little coming of it.

Large scale growers are out for mass production and quick turn over. Hybrids are best suited to this because of their vigor, often extended flowering periods (most people won't buy a plant not in flower) and the ease with which these plants can be reproduced. Also consistency, lets not forget that the vast majority of plants you see for sale are genetically identical (with the exception of a somatic mutation here and there). This means not only do the plants show up for retail looking pretty much the same, but they all reach blooming size around the same time. There are of course exceptions to this that scraped along the way, but no where near the variability associated with seed grow plants.

Now the small scale orchid grower is a completely different beast all together. Don't get me wrong with what I am about to say, it is a grouse generalization about a group of people I have had many dealings with over the years and a good portion of this country, and believe me there are exceptions. With that said, there is a certain degree of vanity among orchid growers (this goes for many that don't have a retail outlet as well). There is a need to poses something beautiful, unique, something they can attach their name to that will go on long after they are gone, and this notion that they are improving on nature. Unlike in the dart frog hobby where the vast majority of people see hybrids as a threat to the sanctity of the art, orchid growers see it as a vast improvement. That to create a hybrid is the pinnacle of what you do as a grower. Not only has this lead to a degradation of the gene pool, but it has lead to a split among hobbyist and a gradual disappearance of species orchids from growers shelves.

This is why I don’t foresee hybrids go out of favor among growers or hobbyist. Most people are not ecologically minded, and that is the mind set that it would take to get hybrids to become frowned upon. Just think about how many dart froggers out there dream of being asked for their frogs to restore wild populations. As vain as that is in its own way, it is still evident of an environmental ethic that is not widely present among the orchid folks.

This hybrid issue has lead to some sort of a divide among orchid hobbyist. We have been split into two large groups, the species folks and everybody else. It is pretty safe to say the species folks are in the minority. And because of this there is a smaller demand for species orchids, which has lead to them becoming harder to find in the market place. (Also let’s not forget these are generally more difficult to produce.) Now, I don’t ever expect to see the species orchid disappear as there will always be loyalist among us. But lets face it if you want species; you have to hunt for them. And if you are into something weird (again I will use Vanilla as an example), you’re not getting them from growers at all, but from other hobbyist.

So I will stop my rant there for now. I hope this has been what you are looking for Shawn.

But before I end this post, I have a little orchid story to share. It’s sad though (at least to me). I have a friend who runs a small garden center in North Carolina, it’s focused on water gardens but he keeps orchids as well. He has been in orchids for a long time, well at a lot longer then me anyway. It the early 70’s he purchased a division of a species Cattleya (the name escapes me at this time) from a grower in California. I believe he paid 600$ for it, by no means a common plant. The thing that makes it so cool is that it has color changing flowers, they open white and age to a deep purple. That’s much cooler then any hybrid I have ever seen. Anyway, point of this story is the plant is extinct in the wild now and six specimens are known to exist in cultivation. His is one of the six.
 
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Discussion Starter #8
I appreciate your comments jhupp. I will think about what you said and am going to include some of your information in what I would like to do. Thanks.
 
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