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The shy blue vanda

March 10, 2013

The shy blue vanda (Vanda coerulescens, Orchidaceae) is blooming at Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai right now, along with a range of other orchid species. This is peak season for native orchid blossom!

Vanda coerulescens.March10.2013

This orchid is a native Thai species, found in the north only, but also in southern China, Burma and India. It is even reported from the Doi Suthep mountain hovering above Chiang Mai, but since it is listed as endangered it is possible it is now extinct from our populated area. Confidential field reports to the Orchid Ark are most welcome!

It is often confused with Vanda lilacina, a species with a much broader geographical range. The confusion is due to the many similar colour varieties, some of which are likely to be garden cultivars. The petals and sepals in V. coerulescens are very light bluish, while white in V. lilacina, although these are not stable characters. A more reliable characteristic is the shape of the spur; long and slender in V. coerulescens, short and compact in V. lilacina.

Being a native of evergreen forests we successfully grow V. coerulescens in the shade of an evergreen mango tree, facing east. We have the largest inflorescence ever, and that without a drop of NPK fertilizer. We think that is due to abundant bird and reptile excrements dissolved in dew and rain water, which in turn is due to absence of pesticides.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

(Precipitation report: On March 4th we received 5 mm of rain. The landscape is unusually green and beautiful, with early leaf formation in many trees and loads of various blossom. This morning was cold, 17.5°C).

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. John Hobday permalink
    March 10, 2013 10:09 AM

    I find your photo of V.coerulescens interesting because the petals and sepals are narrow and not veined unlike a similar Vanda species which has much broader petals and prominent veining. I have seen this listed as V.coerulea. It is popular in nurseries and varies in colour from deep blue/purple to light blue. I used to have a wild collected specimen, which was light blue and veined, given to me by a hilltribe man, but it was stolen by some people from an adjacent construction site. Although collected near XX at about 900m it thrived in the shade of a mango tree in Chiang Mai.

    • March 10, 2013 10:20 AM

      Vanda coerulea is a much larger species and indeed critically endangered due to the theft of hill-tribers as you described. The fundamental message to all orchid lovers is: do not buy them from roadside stands or villagers, and teach all your friends and neighbours why they should not. Our V. coerulescens was bought from a CITES certified dealer in Chiang Mai. We even checked her with CITES in Bangkok to make sure she is legal.

      • John Hobday permalink
        March 11, 2013 8:05 AM

        I could not agree more about buying from CITES certified dealers and not encouraging the illegal and passing trades. The dilemma is when one sees endangered epiphytes on felled or fallen trees and which are doomed if left in situ. Rescue and save, or leave to natural processes? I know of a lone tree which is covered in Rhyncostylis Inusta, which was singed by fire last year, and could be destroyed at any time. Should I move some of these beautiful orchids to a safer environment in the same area, or leave them? This would mean using a local hilltribe man to collect some specimen and to relocate them.

      • March 11, 2013 9:11 AM

        We struggle with this moral decision too. It is illegal to pick them up, but they will die on the ground. We have urged Thai authorities to write up a salvation picking permit law, allowing people with an interest in conservation to use them after Australian model. There is no interest in that and the illegal trade goes on as before. At the Orchid Ark we are restricted to orchids donated from private gardens or bought from CITES certified dealers. We just received a generous donation from Orchid garden Kao Lak, orchids sent to us by mail.

        Ketsanee & Eric

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