A large November orchid
If you consider flower size, Tracy’s cymbidium (Cymbidium tracyanum, Orchidaceae) might be one of the largest wild orchid species in Thailand. A flowering panicle may contain 20 flowers, each flower reaching a decimeter in width. It is said to be fragrant, but maybe I am blocked to its fragrance? Never mind, this is a spectacular species! If you wish to grow it in your Chiang Mai garden and surprise your visiting friends from over seas (it is in blossom in the cold season) you should keep it in a well drained pot in a shady and moist area. Being a high elevation plant it demands water all year round. Make sure you buy it from a CITES certified dealer since many wild orchids rapidly disappear due to theft from the national parks. One Chiang Mai Thai name is ‘kare karon inthanon’.
The scientific genus name ‘Cymbidium’ is derived from Greek ‘kymbion’ which means ‘little boat’, referring to the canoe-like structure of the column. The name was coined by the Swedish orchidologist Olof Peter Swartz in 1799. The scientific species name ‘tracyanum’ (often incorrectly ‘traceyanum’) is a Latinized form of Mr Henry Amos Tracy of Twickenham, England, who first grew this species (Gardeners’ Chronicle, n.s., v. 8, p. 718-719, December 20, 1890). Mr Tracy was a pioneer in importing orchids to be sold at low costs to promote an interest in orchids.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden