Monday, May 10, 2010

Vanilla planifolia, the Vanilla Orchid, flowered in our warm greenhouse earlier this spring

It was pretty interesting but, to me, more interesting was the form of the vine growing up the greenhouse wall. I got in the habit of going in to see it and so yesterday, when I had weekend watering duty, I paused to take more pictures of it.

I know I've alluded to my fascination with the curves of  tropical rain forest plants, and it'd be hard to beat this one for grace of sinuosity. Usuallly Vanilla appears as a confused mass of foliage concealing its curvaceous elegance inside a tangled confusion of  green. This one shoot has been growing against the stucco texture of the wall seemed particularly attractive yesterday.

I learn from Wikipedia that vanilla is the second most costly spice. Only saffron, which is, essentially, the processed stigmas and styles of the flowers of the Autumn Crocus, Crocus sativus, is more expensive. Go figure. Of  course the functional unit of "vanilla" is the vanilla bean, the dried seedpod of the Vanilla orchid. Pollination is required as only fertilized flowers produce seeds and thus the pod which is what we really want. It almost begins to look like one of the flowers is going to produce fruit so I'll have a good excuse to continue monitoring the plant.

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