Everything Gourmet

The Opulence of Orchids

A Phaius wallichii orchid, a terrestrial orchid with exuberant flowers. Photo©F-G Grandin MNHN. Photo courtesy MNHN. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

Paris, France — One of the most spectacular wintertime shows is unfolding in the French capital for the tenth year running. A Thousand and One Orchids is currently underway in the tropical greenhouse of France’s National History Museum in the Jardin des Plantes – the Botanical Gardens. Orchids fascinate, they seemingly have expression-filled faces, burst forth in a host of colors and are among the most diversified plants species on the planet with over 30,000 known species spread out over 800 genuses, for new species are discovered and described every year. They are also endangered in the wild. 

A Calanthe sieboldii orchid, a Japanese terrestrial orchid that has a lovely fragrance. Not all orchids are scented. Photo©F-G Grandin MNHN. Photo courtesy MNHN. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

For the tenth anniversary of the exhibition the greenhouse is bursting with a high density of orchids and two pathways have been created to take visitors down Orchid’s Way. One was created by the gardeners of the National Natural History Museum while another, imagined by Stéphane Marie, who hosts a popular gardening show on French television, offers a glimpse into 20 exceptional specimens. Some 700 plants, requiring 75 hours of preparation, have been installed by the Museum team for the show and this year a stunning structure emerges from one of the water basins in the greenhouse. Four hundred plants, including 200 orchids, pale pink and white orchids, emerge out of a 10-foot (three meters) high structure that seemingly walks upon the water. “This 10th anniversary edition consecrates a decade of determined work from the Museum’s teams and its faithful partners (plant nurseries, French orchid producers and botanical associations). It also offers the opportunity to showcase the knowhow of the establishment’s gardeners who on a daily basis guarantee the protection and the conservation of our living plant collections,” said Bruno David, the president of the Museum at the official opening of the exhibition.

A Catasetum pileatum orchid in its imperial variety. The felt-capped catasetum or mother of pearl flower orchid is found in the Caribbean and South America. Photo©F-G Grandin MNHN. Photo courtesy MNHN. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

Before entering the greenhouse, visitors are greeted by a large group of 110 pastel-colored Cymbidium or boat orchids waving in the wind while upon entering the warmth of the 19th century structure, a golden group of 75 Oncidium orchids, often called the dancing-lady orchids, hang overhead. The Museum also partners with the city of Paris greenhouses, French orchid growers, plant and seed nurseries and associations devoted to orchids who are on hand to explain the displays along with the Museum’s gardeners. 

A Chysis aurea orchid, the golden-flowered chess is an epiphytic species of orchid. Epiphytic species or epiphytes are tree-growing orchids. Photo©F-G Grandin MNHN. Photo courtesy MNHN. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

The exhibition has two major objectives, explains the director of the Botanical Gardens of the Museum, Isabelle Glais along with Denis Larpin who is the scientific director for the living tropical plant collections of the Museum. To enthrall and at the same time to make the public aware of the diversity and fragility of this major family of flowering plants. « At the Museum, one of our missions is to conserve and save wild orchids, many of which are endangered. For the teams of the greenhouses of the Jardin des Plantes and the Arboretum de Versailles-Chèvreloup, the exhibition offers the opportunity to present interesting orchids from the wild, more discrete than the hybrids and to enable the visitors to discover them, » they explained in a joint statement. 

An Epidendrum ciliate or the fringed star orchid, a fitting descriptive name. Photo©F-G Grandin MNHN. Photo courtesy MNHN. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

The show also underscores the difference between naturally growing orchids and those created by the hand of man or hybrids. While the Jardin des Plantes is open to the public only guided visits can be arranged at the Arboretum de Versailles-Chèvreloup, part of the Museum and which also houses a collection of orchids. The Thousand and One Orchids show — Mille et Une Orchidées in French— is running until March 6th. A boutique selling orchids and orchid paraphernalia is open next to the greenhouses for the duration of the exhibition. But in the greenhouses and surrounding botanical gardens the show goes on all year long. 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 40 79 56 01. ©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette


1 reply »

  1. Love this!! Have always loved it when our Bronx Botanical Garden here in N.Y. hosts an orchid show. I only wish that my schedule allowed a trip to Paris to see this spectacular show! Next year!!


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