Sunday, 28 June 2009

the yearly affair - grammatophyllum speciosum

If you happen to visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens, you should look out for the Tiger Orchid as they have started to bloom. However, it's funny how many people appear to have either missed it or dissed it as being just another orchid. However, any orchid enthusiast will tell you that this isn't just any other orchid! It is probably the King of Orchids!

The Grammatophyllum speciosum, more commonly known as the Tiger Orchid or Sugar Cane Orchid is probably the largest orchid and the heaviest known to man. It is native to New Guinea, Indonesia and Malaysia and is epiphytic, growing on trees and exposed areas of the lowland tropical rainforest. In Singapore, Tiger Orchids are seldom found in the wild. Ironically and thanks to NPark's efforts, you will find many clusters attached to wayside trees along Napier Road, Botanic Gardens and Orchard Boulevard.

The Tiger Orchid can grow into gigantic clusters weighing several hundred kilograms. The spikes can grow up to lengths of about two metres, each bearing up to eighty scented flowers, about 10 cm wide. The flowers are yellow colored with maroon or dark red spots. The orchid blooms only once every two to four years and it can normally remain in bloom for up to two months. Because of its enormous size, it is rarely cultivated.

I was fortunate enough to buy a clump from World Farm several years ago. It is currently sitting in the shade in my backyard and appears to be doing well. Given that it is epiphytic and is commonly found on trees in the wild, I gather it is pretty adaptable and can tolerate a range of light levels. I did notice that the leaves of my plant tended to turn yellow when exposed to direct sun, but the leaves of the clump at SBG remain rather green even when exposed to the elements. Anyway, I will keep mine potted for now, until such time I find a place of my own.

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