The last specimen of a rare Hawaiian orchid on Kauai will be joined next week by a half-dozen of its descendants in its home.
An Illinois botany professor who successfully reproduced the Platanthera holochila is expected to bring about 90 plants to Hawaii next week.
The orchid is extinct on Oahu and nonexistent on the Big Island, but Maui has about 20 plants living in the wild and about 20 live on Molokai. The only known specimen on Kauai lives in the Alakai Swamp within a fence that protects it from goats and pigs.
One of three orchid species endemic to Hawaii, the plant is the rarest of all three and appears somewhat unglamorous for an orchid, said Wendy Kishida, Kauai coordinator of the Plant Extinction Prevention Program.
It can grow to be several feet tall with hundreds of greenish-yellow flowers that bloom from spikes around the stem, according to some descriptions.
Chipper Wichman, director and chief executive officer of the National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kauai, said botanists have seen the plant’s population decline over 20 years from about four plants to one. He said no one has been able to propagate the plant.
“This is really a success story,” he said. “This is a huge breakthrough for us.”
FOR years now, my foyer has been a halfway house for indoor plants — that is, halfway between a cozy berth in someone else’s home and a pauper’s grave in my backyard.
I killed some of these plants gladly. Before leaving Minneapolis for New York, my friend Julie bestowed on me a 12-foot-long asparagus fern with wicked spines and an anger management problem. Meanwhile, the spider plant she left seemed to drop another clone every time I slept. (Out-of-control asexual reproduction is surely the stuff of nightmares.) By the time Julie moved back to Minneapolis seven years later, I’d terminated them both. Plants need water, you know.
Other houseplants were beautiful — until I got my blundering hands on them. A jade plant dropped its emerald leaves, as round and smooth as river stones. A Dracaena marginata with a mop top rotted from the soil up. My mother-in-law, her rooms overflowing with verdure, passed along a parlor maple (Abutilon striatum). It had flowers like crepe paper, the color of a Cape Cod sunrise. This one I drowned.
When I learned that I would be moving last August, for the first time in 11 years, I took stock of the survivors. What did I find on the radiator cover? A pair of umbrella plants that counted a dozen leaves between them. A ficus with something like psoriasis and another with a stoop. I felt pity, and I felt shame.
It was time for a clean break.
A month after moving into my new home, I phoned three experts to ask what new houseplants I should draw close to my bosom and adopt as my own. They suggested plants for shady windows and plants for dry winters. They shared their best tips and their favorite catalogs. They prophesied plants that cannot be killed. Their greatest hits are below — with a star next to the indestructible plants.
Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
WHEN RICHARD Padgette, new owner of Green Castles in St Mary, decided that he would pursue ecotourism interests instead of the traditional areas of agriculture for which the property had developed a reputation, he offered some of the workers a chance to buy into those areas.
Lloyd Pringle, who was managing the orchid operation, jumped at the opportunity to go into business and with his wife, Shana, bought out the operation and leased some of the land. That was three years ago.
“Most of the houses were at the stage that they needed replanting and so we brought in new plants and replanted. The houses are just coming back into production and we have three acres of cut flowers and half an acre of potted plants. The cut flowers are grown for reaping the blooms alone while the potted plants are sold whole,” Pringle explained.
Orchids are a year-round business, with peak periods such as Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Secretaries Day and the Pringles sell right across the island, from Negril Point to St Thomas in the east. They use courier services to facilitate delivery to the distant wedding coordinators, event planners and florists who support the business, while for neighbouring parishes, such as St Andrew and Kingston, they make the deliveries.
Business could be better if he could only get the orchids to cooperate by blooming in sync with the demand for them, but Pringle says that, try as he might, the flowers just won’t cooperate.