The Big Island of Hawaii is known for many things including being the largest island in the Hawaiian chain. However, another name for the big island is the “orchid isle” and the reason for that is fascinating.
Surprisingly, there are only three types of orchids that are actually native to Hawaii – and these are possibly the least colorful or extroverted orchids that you can imagine. Their technical names are Anoetochilus sandvicensis (the jewel orchid); Liparis hawaiensis (the twayblade orchid); and Platanthera holochila. These native orchids grow in the very highest places with the island’s forests and bogland. They are not easy to find and really quite rare – the rarest is the Platanthera which is also known as the fringed orchid, identified by its greenish-yellow flowers and egg-shaped leaves.
Orchids were commercially grown as early as the early 1900s when Hawaiian business people first began growing imported orchids in large shade-houses. They were primarily seen as status symbols. But, the expertise of the local growers combined with the perfect conditions found in Hawaii helped to build a reputation for excellence in the production of orchids. This reputation was cemented in 1957 when the Honolulu Orchid Society exhibited 22,000 plants in St Louis – it was such a success that Hawaii was declared as the “orchid center of the world”.
There are two orchid species of Cattelya nicknamed the “Christmas Orchid”. They get their nickname from the fact that they display their beautiful orchid blooms around Christmas time.
The first Cattleya “Christmas Orchid” is Cattleya percivaliana. Although this is a relatively small plant, the flowers are quite large in relation to its size, with lavender to rose-colored blossoms. Each bloom is further decorated with a frilly lip and a touch of yellow in the throat.
The other Cattleya “Christmas Orchid” is Cattleya traianaei. It is one of the most cultivated Cattleya species in the orchid community and is now the national flower of Colombia. This species produces blossoms in many colors from a pure snowy, holiday white to deep lavenders and anything in between. It begins to bloom around December, but continues its show for the next four or five months, right into the Easter season. And it smells good too!
Finally, the orchid known as the “Christmas Star” or “The Star of Bethlehem Orchid” is Angraecum sesquipedale. The star-shaped blossoms are a waxy white to greenish-white in color, appropriate for the holiday season. This orchid is only fragrant at night, keeping with it’s night-time star-like qualities.
The featured image of this page is fine art named White Christmas Orchids by Efren Erese. View Efren Erese’s Photographic-like oil paintings that capture every detail of his florals, down to the water droplets falling from the petals.
Efren S. Erese, a founding member of the Pacific Artists’ Guild for over 35 years, has been painting since he was a child. A resident of Angeles City in Pampanga, Luzon, The Philippines, he has supported his family with his art for 45 years.
His versatility is astounding. He is equally at home painting the intricacies of the rigging of a 19th century clipper ship as he is recording the natural beauty of the exotic flowers that surround his home. Efren is a lay preacher and a sincere and devout man who has been blessed with a talent that all can appreciate, but few can emulate. He welcomes commissions and his paintings have been acquired by discriminating collectors worldwide.