Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dendrobium nobile

Dendrobium nobile, 19th century lithograph. Some people drink. Some gamble. Some smoke. When I have a hard day, week, month, I think about gardening. This year with so much rain, and chilly, the outdoor garden is more neglected. That leaves indoors, and lately, orchids.

Now that my Dendrobium nobile is in bloom, I became more interested in this species, and researched its development into the modern hybrids. It's interesting to read. Ning is in Shanghai with the better camera, so this is not as clear, but this is the general idea.

Photo and information below are from
In the early 1950s, Jiro Yamamoto began working with Dendrobium nobile in tissue culture. He went on to develop new hybrids, refined growing techniques, and expanded to greenhouses in Japan, Hawaii, and Thailand. Yamamoto Orchids has developed more than 4,000 registered hybrids. Many of the modern ones are tetraploid, a genetic duplication that can mean more robust plants, with larger flowers.

Yamamoto is now a major orchid business, supplying their flowering Dendrobium plants around the world. While I can't say that my NOID, Trader Joe's Dendrobium plants are from Yamamoto, I strongly suspect that they are.

The Yamamoto tetraploid hybrids and sophisticated growing techniques resulted in an impressive transformation of this plant. The orchids are greenhouse grown in Hawaii, starting with the highly developed hybrids, then propagated through tissue culture, then grown in clusters and brought into bloom. I'm not sure I want the top-to-bottom flowering plant in my own collection. They are beautiful, but possibly too much for my little plant room. However, I think these varieties are so developed as far as ease of growth, compact size, and flower shapes and colors, they make a great plant in my home collection. I love seeing the growth habit, with the twisting, knobby canes and succulent leaves. I don't know if my plants will be as stout as the greenhouse-grown plants, but I took a lot of pride that I brought specimens into bloom. In all honesty, that's probably due to Mr. Yamamoto's efforts, more than mine.

From the Kew Gardens website, "This species occurs largely in deciduous forests between 1,500 and 2,000 m elevation in the foothills of the Himalayas and surrounding areas. It is recorded from India, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Laos and Vietnam. It prefers bright sunlight, which is provided by deciduous trees which lose their leaves in the autumn." also "This species was first known from China and was later imported for cultivation into Europe from India. Many horticultural varieties of this species were named in the 19th century. The specific epithet 'nobile' means noble..."

Dendrobium is used in Chinese herbal medicine. Also some nice photos here. "It is one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it has the name shí hú (石斛) or shí hú lán (石斛兰)." Assuming that there IS a medicinal property to this plant, the changes in domestication, hybridization, and culture, would have no predictable effect on that property - there could be more, less, or none. Apparently, the nobile orchid is regarded as an aphrodesiac. Here, it states hypotensive, antipyretic, analgesic (basically, aspirin and a blood pressure pill). Also "Nourishes the Stomach; Promotes generation of Body Fluids; Nourishes Yin; Clears Heat". Also here. "A prepared Dendrobium compound decreases the level of blood glucose, promotes the secretion of insulin and increases insulin sensitivity in diabetic rat models and patients. Shi-Hu is also a main substance in the Shi-Hu Ye Guang Wan, a preparation for cataracts, poor sight and other eye problems... alkaloids in the Dendrobium species, such as dendrobine, are a weak anti-pyretic and analgesic... may increase immunity, decrease the oxidant stress in aging and have anti-cancer activity.... recently used in the treatment of stomach and lung cancer.

Well, better this than tiger testicles or rhino horns, or whatever.

It's been another very hard week. As I stated at the beginning, this is one of my outlets. The pic is from - more realistic - but the plant is ordered from Hausermann orchids. This is my 4th order (or 5th?) from them. I must like that place.

This pic isn't that attractive. I'll have to take my own pic. Web pics may not look like what I get, because of differences in growth, lighting, and color changes in the camera, so I won't really know until (if) it blooms in my hands. Probably in about 9 months, my guess.

The variety originates from Yamamoto orchids, Dendrobium Yellow Song 'Canary'. From the Yamamoto Orchids site, "A new variety is in stunning golden yellow. It has won a new status of rarity, since flowering on new canes are guaranteed, yet that is a rare quality for yellow inflorescence... It flowers well, with 4~5 or more blooms on each node. Canes grow fast and multiple shoots can develop producing golden blossoms in profusion, resulting in a bouquet full and festive. Its robust character makes the care very easy. We can recommend even for novice growers. Even a short cane in 5cm can bear flowers." Of course, their photo shows an awe-inspiring blossoming plant, but as I noted earlier, I'm happy with the smaller number of flowers, held more loosely, that I'll probably have.

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