Sunday, February 10, 2013

Orchids of Latin America

Where: National Museum of Natural History

When: through April 21, 2013

Every year, the Natural History Museum and the Botanic Gardens put on an orchid exhibit.  One year, the exhibit is shown at Natural History and the next, it's shown at the Gardens.  As the Gardens are a bit far for me to go on a lunch hour, I'm delighted when it's Natural History's turn to host.  Although the museum is always noisy and full of people, the orchid exhibit manages somehow to create its own little world of quiet beauty and soft fragrance.  Visiting is like taking a vacation to a tropical paradise - a welcome escape from the cold winter weather and gloomy February skies outside.

This year, the orchids on display are from Latin America, where they grow in abundance and much variety.  To attempt to describe the colors and shapes is pointless - you really have to see it for yourself to truly appreciate it.  Suffice it to say they are lovely and no two are exactly alike.

As with all Natural History shows, I learned quite a bit at this exhibit.  I'd always thought of orchids as rare, delicate flowers, but in fact, they are quite hardy and adaptive.  There are 20,000 known species of orchids, making them one of the world's largest plant families.  I also found out that vanilla is an orchid seed pod - it's one of the few orchids whose value comes from something other than its flower.

Unlike other shows I've seen here, there were several photographers in attendance - and I do mean photographers, not just people snapping photos with their phones, although there were some of those as well.  Whether they were amateurs, simply taking pictures they thought would be pretty, or professionals who intended to use the photos in some commercial endeavor, I don't know, but they were much in evidence.  If you go, allow time to walk around them.

Verdict: Well worth a trip, no matter how bad the weather outside.  In fact, the more dreary the day, the more you'll appreciate the show.

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