Vanilla calopogon: A rare orchid at the backdoor of Metro Manila

Vanilla calopogon Rchb.f., Otia Bot. Hamburg.: p40 (1878)

Local Name: The Beautiful Bearded Vanilla, leafless orchid

Flower Size 1.6 to 1.8″ [4 to 4.5 cm]

History : There are more than 120 species of Vanilla that can be found in tropical areas of the world. However only 5 to 6 species are known to produced the vanillin extract which is essential in aroma therapy, food, cosmetic, baking and ice cream.

Totonac people, who inhabit the East Coast of Mexico in the present-day state of Veracruz, Mexico, were the first to cultivate vanilla. According to Totonac mythology, the tropical orchid was born when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover.

world map showing areas where vanilla orchid species can be found

Vanilla is a flavor derived from orchid species of the genus Vanilla. primarily from the Mexican species, flat-leaved Vanilla planifolia .  The word vanilla, derived from the the Spanish word vaina (vaina itself meaning sheath or pod), simply translates as little pod.   people cultivated the vine of the vanilla orchid, called tlilxochitl by the Aztecs, and Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes is credited with introducing both vanilla and chocolate to Europe in the 1520s.

Initial attempts to cultivate vanilla outside Mexico and Central America proved futile because of the symbiotic relationship between the vanilla orchid and its natural pollinator, the local species of Melipona  bees.  Pollination is required to set the fruit from which the flavoring is derived. In 1837, Belgian botanist Charles Francois Antoine  discovered this fact and pioneered a method of artificially pollinating the plant. The method proved financially unworkable and was not deployed commercially. In 1841, Edmond albius , a slave who lived on the French island of Reunion  in the Indian Ocean, discovered at the age of 12 that the plant could be hand- pollinated . Hand-pollination allowed global cultivation of the plant.

close-up view of the flower

Origin: Unlike its related cousins from Central and South America , There are about 4 to 6 species of Vanilla orchid species that can be found in the Philippines.  Found in northwestern Luzon provinces , Norzagaray , Angat , San Jose del Monte in Bulacan, Rizal province in dry thickets and on trees in forests at low elevations as a large sized, hot growing climbing terrestrial with a terete stem without leaves that blooms in the late spring and early summer on a short, 4 to 6 flowered inflorescence .  It is endemic to Luzon island. This orchid species is a climber and is leafless. In my several years of cultivation. The orchid will become active during the onset of the rainy season by producing vines.

On June 29, 1890 , it was recollected in dry thickets in Luzon then later in 1918 Mr. Maximo Ramos collected some in the town of  Burgos , Ilocos Norte on July 20, 1918 . Some specimen was later discovered in Rizal province by Mr. Alejandro , an orchid collector by profession sometime in 1948.  The flower does not last very long, it only bloom 2 to 3 days .

My orchid specimen was given to me by a friend from the Philippine Orchid Society ( Mr. Reynaldo Lucas ) before he left the country sometime in 2008.  According to the book of Ms. Mona Lisa Steiner the orchid species used to be found in Novaliches , Valenzuela , Bulacan areas .  But with the recent developments , one can hardly see any orchid species growing in wild places, most of which are already converted into subdivisions, highways or industrial areas. One last hope will be the La Mesa Watershed area.

Vanilla calopogon climbing vine

The specific name calopogon means ” beautiful beard ‘ refer to this attractive labellum . Its pale greenish lilac colored flowers is a sight to behold.

References and Bibliographies :

Kew Garden: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl/record/kew-211860

Davis S. Reg, Steiner , Mona Liza 1952 New York , USA  page 239 to page 241

The Complete Writings of Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing on Philippine Orchids , 1981 Eugenio Lopez Foundation,  page 103 to 105

Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society Christmas Party 2011

It was hot and humid afternoon on December 3,2011 when the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society Inc. or simply PNPCSI hold its annual Christmas party at the home of Mr. Reg Yuson a new member , His home is  located in Scout Chuatoco street  Quezon City.

Arundina graminifolia or bamboo orchid planted in one section of the property

The author arrived past 4 :00PM and saw Mr. Micheal Agbayani Calamaro  ( PNPCSI) board member for year 2011 to 2012 . He came all the way from Ilocos Norte just to attend this event.

various kinds of ferns

I was warmly welcome by the host and had a few conversation with Mr. Reg Yuson . The house and lot if about 1, 100 square meters and sits on prime location.

Ms. Regielene Soriano -Gonzales, Mr. Ronald Achacoso and Mr. Reg Yuson

Mr. Yuson is an artist and had several sculpture projects in  Fort Bonifacio Global City in Taguig , an avid plant collector and he also customizes car.

Photo caption : Patrick Gozon, Noel Malacad, Mr. Reg Yuson, Edwin Tadiosa, Ronald Achacoso, Rommel Arriola and Micheal Agbayani Calamaro

One by one the member arrived , at past 6:00pm the party started by a short prayer and introduction of each member . A short power point presentation was shown to the attendees .

Dr. Antonio Manila speaking before the members and invited guests

The presentation highlights was the participation of the society to several events like annual Philippine Horticultural Society show held in 2011 and the First Leonardo Co’s International Symposium held at the Tambunting Hall of the National Museum for the Filipino People  ( formerly  known as Finance Building) last November 2011 and the various horticultural walks that was conducted by the members of the society.

Mr. Ivan Serenas a new member of the society partake at the evening buffet

Mr. Ivan Serenas is a bird watcher, photographer and travel guide. He is also a member of various environmental and bird watching clubs.  Sarenas has traveled the Philippines extensively and exhaustively as photographer of the prestigious Philippines Yearbook, as well as for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Greenpeace, Conservational International, National Geographic Productions, and the BBC. His  art photographs have been exhibited at Pinto Gallery and the Ayala Museum in Makati and in the International photography exhibition such as in Tokyo, Japan and Paris  France.

Among the popular tours are the UP Diliman’s Tree Walk conducted by Architect Patrick Gozon and UP Los Banos  Heritage Tree Trek .

Ms. Veronica Peralejo received the certificate of appreciation from Dr. Antonio Manila and Mr. Anthony Arbias for her artistic contribution of the club’s logo

The food was prepared by Chef Eugene Catipon  and Mr.  Rico Quimbo .

Mrs. Elisa Montecastro an active member of various horticultural societies invited members to come and visit her resort in Subic , Zambales on January 2012.

Chef Eugene

I had to leave the place at past 7:00 pm together with Mrs. Elisa Montecastro who dropped me near Manila Seedling Bank where another party is being hosted by Philippine Orchid Society.

The Christmas party extended until past 12 midnight and was dubbed by some members as PNPCSI Marathon Christmas party.

LEGO PILIPINAS, TARA NA ! exhibit

Atrium -SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City

Lego Philippines in cooperation with SM Mall of Asia , Department of Tourism staged the first ever Philippine map complete with scenic spots  fully made by Lego.

18 Feet X 30 Feet Relief Map of the Philippines

The event is well-received by the crowd and even legion of foreigners were amazed on the exhibit.  One of the foreigner said that the exhibit is very colorful.

Lighthouse in Basco, Batanes

Paoay Church , Bangui Wind Mills in Ilocos Norte

colonial houses in Vigan , Ilocos Sur complete with horse drawn carriages 

World Famous- Banaue Rice Terraces

SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City

Mayon volcano and Butanding (whale shark )

Another eye catching exhibit was the attraction from  Bicol region , the region  is world re-known for their Mount Mayon and Cagsawa Church ruins,  also on display is the Pating – Bulik  popularly called Butanding  on display . Whale watching had become a favorite tourist attraction in the towns  of Pilar, Donsol in Sorsogon province.

crocodile farm in Palawan

Social Responsibility

  Aside from creating awareness about the beautiful tourist spots in our the country , The exhibit also allowed  visitors to make a concrete contribution to our country through the SM Foundation. In the “Brick House for Children” corner, guests are asked to donate P1,000 and in the donor’s name, a Lego house is displayed to symbolize the donation. The SM Foundation will be the lead agency to identify Department of Social Welfare and Development or DSWD’s centers for children who will benefit from this project. According from a reliable source,  the event had already collected more than one hundred thousand pesos !

Bohol chocolate hills and tarsier

Museo Iloilo

Davao Pearl Farm , bust of  Davao Eagle  , Samal houses and Bukidnon provincial capitol

close-up view of vinta from Zamboanga

stilt houses of Sitangkai , Tawi-tawi province

The colorful lego exhibit is until August 27, 2011 and everyone is invited to come and see the many tourism spots , festivals , natural  ,  architectural and man made  wonders of our country. A friend who collects a lot of lego toys  invited the author to come to the opening of the event last August 12, 2011 but the author manage to went to the  venue   a few days later.

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