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Orchids

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Paphiopedilum glaucophyllum var. moquetteanum.
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Gilles Murray)

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Description

Highly evolved, but vulnerable

The fact that there are so many orchids — 750 genera and 30,000 species — in so many places around the globe is evidence of their tremendous adaptability and of how they have evolved in close step with the organisms that help them multiply. They often rely on a specific type of insect to fertilize them!

History

The Montréal Botanical Garden's orchid collection owes much to Henry Teuscher (1891-1984), the Garden's first curator and its co-founder. Very early on, in the 1940s and 1950s, he established close ties with various botanical gardens that were famous for their orchid collections. From 1945 to 1960, the collection was focused on South American species, thanks to plants sent here by two inveterate plant collectors: J. Stobel, from Cuenca, Ecuador, and C.K. Horich, from San José, Costa Rica. Teuscher became increasingly interested in orchid taxonomy and even went on a few plant-finding trips himself, to Venezuela and other places.

A number of individuals including Brother Marie-Victorin and Pierre Bourque were inspired by Teuscher to bring orchids home from their own travels. This explains why the collection is mostly made up of species native to Central and South America, with 30% Asian and/or Australian species and just 10% African species. In addition, there are some splendid infra- and intergeneric hybrids with very showy blooms.

Today, Denis Laperrière and François Marquis, the horticulturists responsible for this large collection, purchase new plants from Thailand, France and Brazil. They also trade plants with select members of orchid societies and various botanical gardens around the globe. For it is important in this field to amaze visitors with a bit of daring, by displaying new and rare plants.

One of the major challenges in growing orchids is to know and properly reproduce the growing cycle for each species, as it varies considerably between the different species. Some need a dry spell and other a cool one in order to produce attractive blooms. Each case is different and record keeping is essential, since there are no hard and fast rules. Temperature, lighting, humidity and watering requirements vary with each species and with each one's cycle.

Of course, the Orchids and Aroids Greenhouse and the Tropical Rainforest Greenhouse present orchids of tropical origin, but native orchids can also be seen in the Garden during the summer season. They can be found growing in the Shade Garden, under the trees. The Botanical Garden's orchid collection, one of the largest in North America, includes some highly valuable, prestigious prize-winning specimens. These awards are not only a tribute to the Montréal Botanical Garden, but are also another way of familiarizing people with this splendid collection.

The world of orchids is highly fascinating. No need to travel around the globe, to brave jungles or climb mountains, for you can admire them right here at home.

Where and when

Orchids and Aroids Greenhouse, Tropical Rainforest Greenhouse: year round

Shade Garden – native orchids: early spring.

Based on articles by Céline Arseneault and by Denis Barabé in Quatre-Temps magazine.

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