Happy Solstice to all our friends

Happy Winter Solstice to all our friends in the northern hemisphere and happy Summer Solstice to all our friends in the southern hemisphere. The changing day length as the year passes has a major influence on the flowering of most of our orchids with some opening their flowers on almost the same day each year. Outside climate, however, also affects flowering time and this year it looks as if the mild autumn is encouraging spring flowering orchids to bloom early in 2018. Coelogyne multiflora (above) is now in full bloom compared to January 8th Last year (see day 8 for more details). So I guess that in the Writhlington Greenhouses the spring starts here.


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  1. Agnes Jones says:

    We have many poisonous plants in the uk. I wondered if there where any poisonous orchids? You mentioned in your country file interview that the beautiful white orchid you were holding is used to treat fevers. Is it a serious medicine or an alternative sort? Are other orchids used as medicines?

    • Simon Pugh-Jones says:

      Hi Agnes – I don’t know of any poisonous orchids but there is a long history of medicinal uses in Western and Asian and African traditional medicine.
      While some of this use is very dubious (e.g. in western traditional medicine orchid tubers were (an still are) used to improve sexual potency as they look like testicles) there is no doubt that many orchids contain biologically active chemicals and some research to support the uses in traditional chinese medicine https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2121637/
      What is certain is that medicinal use is a very significant threat to many species especially in South East Asia where we have seen evidence of large scale unsustainable collection of wild dendrobiums and other orchids.

  2. Agnes Jones says:

    Thank you for your reply. My Dad was a toxicologist befiore he retired and is always telling me of poisons in plants etc. Some of the most beautiful plants are also very deadly! Some like foxgloves although poisonous are also used in heart medicine and yew too is used as a cancer treatment. The orchid tuber remedy sounds positivly medieval! I don’t think I will try that one thank you.

    The orchids that are being taken from the wild – are you growing these at Writhlington to replant in their natural habitat?

    • AgnesJones says:

      I learnt something important today. I never knew that vanilla came from orchids. To think that I have been cooking with and eating it all this time. All that vanilla icecream!

      P.s My husband did not know either.

    • Simon Pugh-Jones says:

      Yes, most Vanilla comes from just one species Vanilla planifolia that is endemic to Mexico and was used by the Aztecs to flavour cocao. At one time Mexixo had a monopoly on Vanilla production but now the mexican species is grown across the tropical world with most produced in Madagascar and the Comoros. There are more than 100 different vanilla species and we have seen several different ones in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Brazil. The species start as terrestrials and climb as a vine up trees, flowering when they reach the sunlight up in the canopy.

    • AgnesJones says:

      Thanks for the info on vanilla. My daughter, Katherine, studying bakery, confectionary and patisserie at uni had no idea either. How uneducated we all are!

      The Chinese medicine doesn’t look as though it would work on any of those ailments listed. It looks like one of those Victorian cure all potions. Such a terrible shame that there is so much distruction of such beautiful plants for it. I don’t like the sound of their insect of the ear though. I wonder what the symptoms are?