Orchids Charm Festively


By Tanya Silverman

Springtime is a fickle season for New York City. A climactic contrast will often cast across a two-day span, where a hopeful tease of sunshine on Monday is met by an onslaught of sloppy sleet come Tuesday.

Keeping continuously cooped up within the same stale, climate-controlled indoor environments may not be the most inspiring solution for New Yorkers as they avoid the indecisive outdoors. Perhaps the best resolution to restlessness, then, is to venture a venue that fosters warm weather–even tropical conditions, full of lush flora.

Such an engineered mimicry of desirable natural settings exists in the New York Botanical Garden’s (NYBG) Haupt Conservatory, in the form of The Orchid Show.

After visitors experience the initial shock of remembering what warm weather actually feels like, they can stroll around to observe the hundreds of colorful orchids from faraway places like South America, Africa, or Australia.

The NYGB offers a motley sampling of the flower species’ 30,000-plus varieties. Some flowers are narrow and layered in shades of yellow, others round and whitish, speckled with fuchsia or lined with lavender. The hanging chandelier arrangements of orchids make the exhibit feel pleasantly luxurious.

Orchids are some of the most diverse, well-adapted plants on the planet, so their evolutionary skills are considered unique. Placards posted throughout the NYBG’s Orchid Show explain some of the unique stories behind certain strains.

The light-colored Darwin’s Star Orchid from Madagascar, for instance, features a long nectar spur. There’s some scientific history behind the flower’s namesake. In the 19th Century, when Charles Darwin studied orchids, he speculated there must be an insect with a long-enough mouthpart to reach this one’s inner nectar. An animal pollinator was eventually discovered decades after Darwin’s evolutionary deduction: a large moth with an extensive proboscis.

Of all the ways that fauna adapt to their environments, floras evolve, and humans explore nature, orchids are an interesting medium to study such inter-species interaction. Whether patrons care to consider the overlying themes in the Earth’s dynamic ecologies, or seasonally fast-forward by the aid of climate control and attractive flowers, The Orchid Show provides a proper outlet.

‘The Orchid Show’ will be on display at the New York Botanical Gardens until Apr 19.

All photos by Tanya Silverman.