Monday, April 18, 2011

Orchids of Hawaii

O is for orchids that John Reece loved. When he was ten years old, we went hunting for ferns in the jungle behind our house. He soon lost interest in ferns but discovered the Time-Life book on orchids in the library, brought it home and read it from cover to cover. That began a life-long passion for these beautiful, delicate creations.

When John arrived on the Big Island, his first journal entry told about the orchids on the island. On September 29, 1999 he wrote:
"There is a particular orchid that grows everywhere around here. There are apparently only 3 native Hawaiian orchids, and 4 non-native species that have gone wild. The one I’ve been seeing is terrestrial, has white flowers with purple lip, and grows about 1 meter high. I think it is an introduced species."
After doing a bit of my own research, I confirmed the fact that there are only 3 native Hawaiian orchids and none of them are the flashy, beautiful varieties we think of when we think of an orchid. Experts believe that due to the difficulty of orchid seeds migrating across the vast ocean distance, only 3 varieties managed to make it to the remote islands of Hawaii. For those who may be interested in reading about these native Hawaiian orchids, I'm including a link to another blog that gives detailed information about them. The three native orchid varieties are the Fringed Orchid, Twayblade and Jewel and all three are becoming more and more rare and are considered to be endangered species.

John grew up in Brazil (in the Amazon) so he had plenty of opportunity to develop his knowledge of and passion for orchids. Whenever he and his dad would go out in the boat during high water season, he would collect a few of the orchids he found on the branches. And if trees fell in the jungle or were cut down, he would scour the fallen branches in search of orchids to rescue. He developed quite a collection and cared for them, knew all their names, etc. He was indeed a passionate orchid lover.

After his disappearance, a close friend painted a picture - a collage of the places and things that were significant in his life and of course an orchid was prominent in the painting. We included a photograph of the painting in our book and I am including it here.

Painting done by Julie Eagan Avery


  1. Orchids are my favorite flower. I went to a couple orchid shows and its amazing the diversity of colors and looks. I can look at them for hours.

  2. I love orchids. I didn't realize there were Hawaiian varieties. I saw some gorgeous orchids when I was in South America last summer.

  3. Good post and great blog. I'm enjoying looking through. I'm stopping by from the A to Z challenge and I look forward to reading more from you.

  4. Stephen, they are my favorite flower, too.

    Karen Peterson, the native Hawaiian varieties aren't flashy at all. Where did you go in South America?

    Sylvia Ney, thanks! I got behind and am headed off to visit your blog right now.

    Thanks to each of you for your comments.


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