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Leaves grow opposite each other at the base.

to 11 per cent of all seed plants, the family Orchidaceae is one of the two largest families of plant species, says Wikipedia. Orchids also produce the tiniest seeds and can grow on land, on air and or on rock. They can self pollinate or be selectively receptive to a host of specialized pollinators: it’s all a matter of adaptation and survival. We think of orchids as tropical


species, but many of their number grow in temperate zones – think of the lovely lady’s slipper of our own fields and forests. Earth bound, the native orchids of Canada are surprisingly diverse in form and habitat – they rate a whole story of their own, but today we are dealing with the exotica, the beauties you find in grocery stores and garden centres and flower shops, blooming for weeks and sometimes months and looking like plastic imitations of them- selves. This, the most


species, is the trusty Phalaenopsis or moth orchid. The flower can occur in

wice as many species as birds; four times as many species as mammals; and representing up

Moth orchids have lovely, rounded, moth-wing shaped petals and a coloured throat to attract pollinators.

many shapes and colours although the ones we see most often have that lovely rounded moth-winged shape with five petals and a coloured labellum or throat to attract pollinators. They often occur in pure white (P. Aphrodite) or pale yellow. Less common are those with speckled, mottled, pointed or striped petals. The leaves are big and leathery and grow opposite one another, one or a pair emerging each year, often followed by the dropping of the oldest pair.

A very healthy orchid can have ten or

more leaves and it can be totally healthy even though it hasn’t re-bloomed. And even though phals (as they are nick- named by growers and fans) are among

the easiest tropical orchids to grow, there is always the odd one that sulks and refuses to come back into bloom. Light

Phals are native to Asia, South East

Asia and Australia. This means, among other things, that they are used to 12 to 14 hours of sunlight a day, year round, a condition hard to meet with- out some artificial help here during the short days of Canadian winters. Such assistance does not have to come from a major investment if you know a little about light and its impact on plant growth. Since incandescent bulbs emit mostly red light, needed by plants for stimulating flower growth, your light source can be a simple lamp,

Dreaming 2016 • 25

Photo by Denis Doukhan.

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