Virtual Orchid Show

Most years, the Missouri Botanical Garden Orchid Show offers visitors the chance to see the Garden’s expansive orchid collection while it is at its most dazzling—right now is the time of year that many orchids bloom.

This year, the Orchid Show is on hold while construction of the new Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center is underway. Beginning in 2023, the Orchid Show will be held in the Emerson Conservatory and its interior Orthwein Conservatory Garden, a feature of the new Taylor Visitor Center that will allow the Garden to display our living collections in a spectacular space.

While we look forward to the opening of the Taylor Visitor Center and the return of the Orchid Show, get to know some of the most magnificent orchids in the Garden’s collection with this Virtual Orchid Show.

Darwin’s Orchid

Photo by Mary Lou Olson

This orchid, 𝘈𝘯𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘦𝘤𝘶𝘮 𝘴𝘦𝘴𝘲𝘶𝘪𝘱𝘦𝘥𝘢𝘭𝘦, is more commonly known as “Darwin’s orchid.” The 𝘈𝘯𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘦𝘤𝘶𝘮 are a very specialized group of orchids from Madagascar. Charles Darwin famously observed the long, green spurs on each flower and postulated that a moth with an exceptionally long proboscis must exist to reach the bottom of those spurs and pollinate the orchid. Such a creature had not been discovered at the time, and scientists were skeptical. But, sure enough, after Darwin’s death, a moth was discovered that was exactly as he had described. Since then, this plant has been widely known as “Darwin’s orchid.”

Ansellia africana

Photo by Tom Incrocci

This orchid, 𝘈𝘯𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘢 𝘈𝘧𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘯𝘢, is native to Africa and is considered endangered in the wild. Here at the Garden, our conservation goals lead us to target rare or endangered species like this one for our collection, where we can study and preserve them for the future.

Vanilla chamissonis

Photo by Dan Brown

Did you know that the vanilla extract you have in your kitchen came from an orchid? In the wild, vanilla orchid vines can grow 60–80 feet up a tree, and it is only when they turn around and grow back downward that they will begin flowering and produce the pods from which vanilla can be collected. Between growing time, ripening, hand-pollination, and harvest, collecting vanilla is a very lengthy process, which is what makes vanilla extract such an expensive pantry item. The Garden is proud to have 16 different species of vanilla in our conservatories, including the 𝘝𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘢 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘪𝘴 pictured here. 


Photos by Claire Cohen and Tom Incrocci

Cattleyas are the beautiful, showy orchids that helped to jumpstart the Garden’s orchid collection. In the 1920s, prominent horticulturist George Henry Pring, then the Missouri Botanical Garden superintendent, was enamored with these flowers on a trip to Panama and Columbia and returned with thousands of these orchids. It’s easy to see why Pring was drawn to them; their decadent, ruffled petals are magnificent. Their appeal has made them a longtime favorite, and in the 1950s and 60s, cattleyas became a popular flower for corsages, giving them their common name, “corsage orchid.”

Myrmecophila tibicinis

Photos by Kristina Schall DeYong; Illustration from public domain.

The 𝘔𝘺𝘳𝘮𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘱𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘢 𝘵𝘪𝘣𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘴 is a beautiful example of the interconnectedness of living things. In the wild, its wide, hollow pseudobulbs are inhabited by ant colonies. The ants do not harm the orchid; they only use it as their home. In turn, the orchid is able to absorb some extra nutrients from the ants’ debris. 𝘔𝘺𝘳𝘮𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘱𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘢 𝘵𝘪𝘣𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘴 is also an epiphytic orchid, meaning that it grows on other established plants (usually a tree). The orchid is does not harm the tree or take anything from it; it just depends on the other plant for structure and support.

Phalaenopsis Hybrid

Photo by Claire Cohen

𝘗𝘩𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘱𝘴𝘪𝘴, or “moth orchids,” is a genus of orchids commonly sold in plant shops and grocery stores. They are are one of the most adept at growing in household conditions and have been heavily hybridized. A happy 𝘗𝘩𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘱𝘴𝘪𝘴 can even bloom multiple times each year. These orchids make a great Valentine’s Day gift! Check out our guide to caring for your 𝘗𝘩𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘱𝘴𝘪𝘴 to be sure you’re giving your orchid the best care.

Phalaenopsis hieroglyphica

Photo by Kristina Schall DeYong

Unlike the 𝘗𝘩𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘱𝘴𝘪𝘴 hybrid orchid, this 𝘗𝘩𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘱𝘴𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘪𝘦𝘳𝘰𝘨𝘭𝘺𝘱𝘩𝘪𝘤𝘢 is a species orchid. The difference between a species and a hybrid is that a species orchid is one that naturally occurs in the wild; a hybrid, on the other hand, is the result of cultivation: two already-existing orchids are crossed to achieve a new variety with purposefully-selected traits. Orchids are often hybridized to highlight desirable traits, such as bloom size, color, fragrance, tolerance to household conditions, and more. Naturally occurring orchids like this one are often smaller and more delicate beauties than some of their more opulent cultivated cousins.

Lady Slipper Orchids

Photos by Suzann Gille, Margaret Schmidt, and Tom Incrocci

Lady slipper orchids are faithful bloomers that flower once a year, every year. Their genus, 𝘗𝘢𝘱𝘩𝘪𝘰𝘱𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘭𝘶𝘮, was named for “Paphos,” temple of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite.

Phalaenopsis aphrodite 

Photo by Claire Cohen

The 𝘗𝘢𝘱𝘩𝘪𝘰𝘱𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘭𝘶𝘮 genus is named after Aphrodite’s temple. But they’re not the only orchids named for the goddess of love—this 𝘗𝘩𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘱𝘴𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘱𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘥𝘪𝘵𝘦 takes its species name from the Greek deity as well.

King Orchid

Photo by Kristina Schall DeYong

This orchid, 𝘋𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘳𝘰𝘣𝘪𝘶𝘮 𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘰𝘴𝘶𝘮, is also known as the “king orchid.” It is always a staple of the Orchid Show because it faithfully produces a breathtaking bounty of intricate little blooms.

Thunderstorm Orchid

Photo by Babs Wagner

𝘋𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘳𝘰𝘣𝘪𝘶𝘮 𝘤𝘳𝘶𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘮 is known as the “thunderstorm orchid” because of its flowering habits. When a rolling summer thunderstorm sweeps through its habitat, this orchid will faithfully bloom about two weeks later. This enchanting quirk is a result of the orchid’s sensitivity to barometric pressure.


Photo by Tom Incrocci

This orchid is a 𝘊𝘢𝘵𝘢𝘴𝘦𝘵𝘶𝘮 hybrid called Clowesia Raymond Lerner. In their natural habitat, 𝘊𝘢𝘵𝘢𝘴𝘦𝘵𝘶𝘮 orchids go through a period of dormancy that must be mimicked in cultivation. In order to get these orchids to bloom, our horticulturists must stop watering them for months at a time. When they do bloom, insects have to climb down into the flowers to pollinate them. The insect’s touch triggers the orchid to forcefully shoot its pollen out from the flower.

Lady of the Night

This orchid, 𝘉𝘳𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘢𝘷𝘰𝘭𝘢 𝘯𝘰𝘥𝘰𝘴𝘢, is also called “lady of the night,” so named because it is only fragrant in the dark. It is so responsive to light that if you have this orchid in a dark room and flip the light switch on, the fragrance will dissipate instantly.

Umbrella Orchid

Photo by Kristina Schall DeYong

This is a 𝘉𝘶𝘭𝘣𝘰𝘱𝘩𝘺𝘭𝘭𝘶𝘮 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨𝘪𝘧𝘭𝘰𝘳𝘶𝘮 orchid. The unusual formation of its flowers give it its common name: the umbrella orchid.

Cockleshell Orchid

Photo by Claire Cohen

This orchid is called 𝘗𝘳𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘢 𝘤𝘰𝘤𝘩𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘢, deriving its species name from its strong resemblance to a cockleshell. For this same reason, it’s known by two common names: the cockleshell orchid or clamshell orchid.

Wilsonara Spaceman ‘Moon Flight’

Photo by Kristina Schall DeYong

This is one of many examples of an orchid hybrid. A hybrid can be created by manually cross-pollinating two existing orchids, collecting and planting the resulting seeds, and patiently waiting to see what the new orchid will look like when it eventually blooms. Orchids may be bred this way in an attempt to bring out a variety of desirable traits, such as a strong fragrance or a larger flower. Other popularly hybridized flowers include irises, daylilies, and many more gardening favorites. This particular orchid, 𝘞𝘪𝘭𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘳𝘢 Spaceman ‘Moon Flight,’ is the result of cross-pollinating 𝘖𝘯𝘤𝘪𝘥𝘪𝘶𝘮 𝘴𝘱𝘩𝘢𝘤𝘦𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘮 with 𝘖𝘥𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘥𝘢 𝘙𝘢𝘺 𝘉𝘶𝘤𝘬𝘮𝘢𝘯.

Jewel Orchids

Photos by Kristina Schall DeYong

Jewel orchids are a popular choice for a houseplant, and it’s easy to see why. Their delicate, white flowers are beautiful, but their foliage is what makes them really unique. The striking, variegated leaves are available in quite a few different varieties, making each plant an eye-catcher even when it’s not in bloom.

Dancing Ladies

Photo by Kristina Schall DeYong

𝘖𝘯𝘤𝘪𝘥𝘪𝘶𝘮 is a genus that includes over 300 species of orchids. They are commonly called “dancing ladies” orchids for the way that their flowers resemble a long skirt billowing out on a spinning dancer.

Nun’s Orchid

Photos by Wesley Schaefer and Kristina Schall DeYong

𝘗𝘩𝘢𝘪𝘶𝘴 𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘬𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘦 ‘Rabin’s Raven’ is also known as the “nun’s orchid.” It is said that if you look into the flower, there appears to be a nun inside.

Bonus: The Talking Orchid

The Talking Orchid was an animatronic educational orchid that interacted with guests from its perch in the Climatron’s canopy. This longtime Climatron resident was state-of-the-art technology when it debuted in 1989. It was forced into retirement in the early 2000s, but its voice lives on in this blog post.

Kristina DeYong
Digital Media Specialist

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