If I have a green thumb at all, it is mostly due to luck. But that luck always runs out when it comes to orchids, with my green thumb (and the orchids) turning a dreadful brown. My mother, on the other hand, is an orchid whisperer. She has only one orchid at the moment, but it is lovingly tended and reciprocates in kind. When she is away, it is my task to water it, and I live in fear of killing it. Thus far, that hasn’t happened. But I can’t help but think it is aware of (and does not appreciate) my inferior ministrations.
Despite my ineptitude, I very much appreciate the ethereal beauty of orchids. So today, my mother and I headed to the opening day of a two-month exhibit, Orchid Symphony, at the U.S. Botanic Garden. It features a dazzling array of orchids in the Garden Court, set against a backdrop of classical music and the sounds of water cascading from fountains. Combined with the fragrant smell emitted by many of the orchids, it is a feast for the senses. But the exhibit goes beyond the Garden Court, with different types of orchids (jungle orchids, desert orchids, and orchids used for medicinal and gastronomic purposes) scattered throughout the Conservatory. Yes, that’s right: orchids are used gastronomically–or at least, one type is used very widely: vanilla is a member of the orchid family!
Altogether, there are more than 20,000 species of orchids (they outnumber birds 2 to 1, and mammals 4 to 1). Here are just 10 of them (hover over the photos to see the names):