Of the more that 35, 000 species of orchids found throughout the world, approximately 1,000 grow in the river valleys and mountain ridges of the Philippines. They can be found drenched in sunlight in the tallest trees of rain forests or hidden in the damp darkness of the jungle floor. They decorate the gardens of Manila hone and dance brightly at the Manila Orchidarium.
People have a common misconception that orchids are parasite. According to botanists, as epiphytes, they use trees, vines, rocks and in some cases, man made objects only for support. They obtain nourishment from air, rainwater, and debris that collects on their host and do no damage to the host itself.
One characteristic that sets orchids apart from the rest of the botanical world (except cacti and succulents) is their ability to store water for long periods to help them through the dry seasons experienced in many tropical countries. Also, the orchids have developed a modified lower petal called the lip to aid in the sometimes complicated process of pollination. It is this lip which gives many of these blooms their uniqueness and beauty.
An orchid, to people from temperate regions, usually means a cattleya but, while its true that the hybrid cattleya has few rivals when it comes to size and gaudiness, the sight of large sprays of the tiger orchid, the bizarre shape of a lady-slipper or the vibrant red of the fire orchid are equal contestants in any botanical beauty contest.
The undisputed queen of Philippine orchids is Vanda sanderiana or popularly known as the Waling-waling. Several natural variations have been found in its localized home area in Mindanao and, because of its large, light colored blooms, it is used for hybrid development throughout the world.
Contrary to popular belief, orchids are extremely hardy plants but naturally occurring varieties have specific requirements as to water, temperature, light, humidity and elevation. Phalaenopsis schileriana seldom flowers in Manila but when grown at a slightly higher altitude where the nights are cooler, it blooms profusely.
Many plants brought to Manila from the mountain regions will never bloom and, in some cases, the plant itself will die.
Because of over-collection, the Waling-waling is difficult to find growing wild in its native region. Although they produce large number of seeds, in some species one million or more, few ever find their way to a suitable host and even fewer survive through the five or more years it takes to reach sexual maturity.
Virgin land in many tropical countries is being deforested much faster that in can be replaced, reducing significantly the amount of acceptable habitat for these elegant plants. For there reasons, sensible conservation practices should be observed so that future generations can enjoy this legacy of beauty.
Information source: Phil Rothermel