Saturday, January 31, 2015

Orchids: Interlocking Science and Beauty

Where: Natural History Museum

When: through April 26, 2015

There's no better way to beat the winter blues than by visiting this exhibit on orchids at the Natural History Museum.  In odd-numbered years, the show is here; in even-numbered years, it's at the Botanic Gardens, close to the Capitol building.  On a dreary January day this week, I headed off to get a dose of warm, fragrant relief.

Each year, there's a different theme for the display; this year, the focus is on the science of the flowers - how botanists learn more about them, how breeders (if that's the right word) create hybrid flowers to appeal to fanciers and how the flowers are protected for future generations to enjoy.

The Smithsonian has over 8,000 orchid specimens in its greenhouses in Suitland, Md., a part of the Institution you don't get to see.  Of course, you can enjoy the products of their labor at the Smithsonian Gardens on the Mall, but I confess, I'd like to visit the greenhouses and see where it all begins.

There are a large number of different varieties on display; one, Psychopsis Mariposa 'Mountain' is in the shape of a butterfly.  I think my favorite was Oncidopsis Stefan Isler 'Lava Flow' which has a lovely color combination of a dark red and orange.  I overheard one of the orchid experts who are available to answer questions tell another visitor that the orchids are swapped out each week, so you can go back multiple time and always see something new.

Verdict: If you're like me and need a day-brightener this time of year, make sure to see this lovely display.

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