About Orchids eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 160 pages of information about About Orchids.

The hottest of all orchids probably is Peristeria elata, the famous “Spirito Santo,” flower of the Holy Ghost.  The dullest soul who observes that white dove rising with wings half spread, as in the very act of taking flight, can understand the frenzy of the Spaniards when they came upon it.  Rumours of Peruvian magnificence had just reached them at Panama—­on the same day, perhaps—­when this miraculous sign from heaven encouraged them to advance.  The empire of the Incas did not fall a prey to that particular band of ruffians, nevertheless. Peristeria elata is so well known that I would not dwell upon it, but an odd little tale rises to my mind.  The great collector Roezl was travelling homeward, in 1868, by Panama.  The railway fare to Colon was sixty dollars at that time, and he grudged the money.  Setting his wits to work, Roezl discovered that the company issued tickets from station to station at a very low price for the convenience of its employes.  Taking advantage of this system, he crossed the isthmus for five dollars—­such an advantage it is in travelling to be an old campaigner!  At one of the intermediate stations he had to wait for his train, and rushed into the jungle of course. Peristeria abounded in that steaming swamp, but the collector was on holiday.  To his amazement, however, he found, side by side with it, a Masdevallia—­that genus most impatient of sunshine among all orchids, flourishing here in the hottest blaze!  Snatching up half a dozen of the tender plants with a practised hand, he brought them safe to England.  On the day they were put up to auction news of Livingstone’s death arrived, and in a flash of inspiration Roezl christened his novelty M.  Livingstoniana.  Few, indeed, even among authorities, know where that rarest of Masdevallias has its home; none have reached Europe since.  A pretty flower it is—­white, rosy tipped, with yellow “tails.”  And it dwells by the station of Culebras, on the Panama railway.

Of genera, however, doubtless the Vandas are hottest; and among these, V.  Sanderiana stands first.  It was found in Mindanao, the most southerly of the Philippines, by Mr. Roebelin when he went thither in search of the red Phaloenopsis, as will be told presently. Vanda Sanderiana is a plant to be described as majestic rather than lovely, if we may distinguish among these glorious things.  Its blooms are five inches across, pale lilac in their ground colour, suffused with brownish yellow, and covered with a network of crimson brown.  Twelve or more of such striking flowers to a spike, and four or five spikes upon a plant make a wonder indeed.  But, to view matters prosaically, Vanda Sanderiana is “bad business.”  It is not common, and it grows on the very top of the highest trees, which must be felled to secure the treasure; and of those gathered but a small proportion survive.  In the first place, the agent must employ natives, who are paid so much per plant, no matter what the

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About Orchids from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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