Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Tiger Orchids

The Tiger Orchids
Written by [Philippine Orchid Review] Kelvin Neil B. Manubay
Sunday, 01 February 1998
This year 1998 ushers in the lunar year of the Tiger. And, what better way for orchid lovers to welcome the year but with the showy blooms of the ‘Tiger’ orchids.

The flowering of orchid species are always initiated by the climatic changes in our environment. The entrance of the first new moon, which signals the start of the lunar year brings with it the transition from short days and cool nights of December to the warm nights and long days of the late January. This occurrence brings with it the flowers for the first quarter of the year. Coincidentally, ‘Tiger’ orchid blooms are the ones that dominate this first part of the year.

Without the taxonomic guide, traditional folk started naming orchids based on the apparent characteristics of the plant. A case in point is Phalaenopsis schilleriana. It is perhaps the most popular among the orchids commonly known as the ‘Tiger’.

Phalaenopsis schilleriana is found in the low laying areas of the south from Laguna, Quezon, Rizal, Marinduque and Bicol up to the eastern side of the Visayas. Its plant is characterized by distinct gray and white barring that marks its broad green leaves. This characteristic has been likened to the barring found on a tiger’s coat, thus the common name ‘Tiger’. This particular species produces masses of pink flowers on long branching sprays that last for about two weeks. Although it is quite difficult to make them flower in Manila, many still keep them for their very attractive foliage.

Another such species is the Phalaenopsis stuartiana. Its plant resembles that of the Phalaenopsis schilleriana but the flowers are white with distinct red purple spotting along its center. This plant which his found in the lower laying areas of Agusan, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, and Surigao readily flowers even in Manila during this time of the year.

On the other hand, Trichoglottis fasiata has also been referred to as the ‘Tiger’ orchid because of the cinnamon-brown bars that distinctly mark its flowers. This species can be found growing on trees in Agusan, Rizal, Sorsogon, and Leyte at altitudes ranging from 60 to 800 meters. It is a very adaptable plant and can easily be grown and flowered in Manila. Its blooming season starts at December and stretches out up to March.

One orchid genus that lays claim to the most number of species referred to as ‘Tiger’ is the genus Grammatophyllum. Although their flowers are generally marked with elongated spots, which is likened to that of a leopard, the consistent patterns they create are more like the patterns on a tiger’s coat. The Grammatophyllum species that are commonly called ‘Tiger” are Grammatophyllum scriptum and its variant tigrinum, Grammatophyllum measuresianum, Grammatophyllum speciosum and the grandest of them all the Grammatophyllum wallisii. Flowers of these genus are normally numerous and are borne on flower spikes that reach u to 5 feet long, with the exception of Grammatophyllum wallisii whose flower spike could grow up to three meters long. Grammatophylums are generally easy to grow and flower.

These are just a few of the orchid species that flower during this time of the year. What makes them special is their being likened to that of a tiger. The Chinese believe that hanging images of the tiger during the Tiger year can bring strength, wisdom, courage and power. Why don’t we add “beauty” to these traits by growing ‘Tiger’ orchids as well?


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