News / Arts & Entertainment

    Beauty & Function: Orchids Have Medicinal, Food Uses

    Not Just for Show, Orchids Have Medicinal, Food Purposes Tooi
    X
    February 28, 2014 4:38 PM
    A new exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington features a vibrant collection of orchids from all over the world. Orchid experts at the Garden spoke with VOA reporter Julie Taboh about these elegant flowers - not just their ornamental value, but their importance in medicine and cooking.
    Not Just for Show, Orchids Have Medicinal, Food Purposes Too
    A new exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington features a vibrant collection of orchids from all over the world. This elegant flower is not solely ornamental, its uses also extend to medicine and cooking.

    Sensory celebration

    To walk into the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington is to encounter a feast for the senses.

    Johann Strauss’s classic Blue Danube waltz fills the air as does the sweet aroma of hundreds of fragrant orchids. This sensory orchestra is part of a new exhibit fittingly called "Orchid Symphony," an annual collaboration with Smithsonian Gardens.

    The garden chose Orchid Symphony as a theme so it could display a wide variety of orchids, while the symphony “suggested a feeling of elegance and grandeur that we thought was fitting with orchids and also the architecture of our conservatory,” said Nick Nelson, the landscape architect at the U.S. Botanic Garden. “We have fountains that we have computer programmed and synchronized with classical music [and] a lovely elegant orchid chandelier in the center of the garden."
    The most famous edible orchid is the vanilla, a vine-form orchid native to Central and South America. (J. Taboh/VOA)The most famous edible orchid is the vanilla, a vine-form orchid native to Central and South America. (J. Taboh/VOA)
    x
    The most famous edible orchid is the vanilla, a vine-form orchid native to Central and South America. (J. Taboh/VOA)
    The most famous edible orchid is the vanilla, a vine-form orchid native to Central and South America. (J. Taboh/VOA)

    In keeping with the musical theme, there are also topiaries in the shape of a violin, a cello and other musical instruments “to add a bit of whimsy to the garden,” he said.

    Nelson added that while the garden has a permanent orchid room within the conservatory, this time of year they have thousands of orchids coming into bloom, which provides a great opportunity to get the message of orchids across to the public.   

    Orchid varieties

    Orchids are found in almost every eco-system in the world.

    Jungle orchids thrive in various tropical climates and there are desert orchids blooming in arid environments,  according to the garden's deputy executive director Ari Novy.

    “The orchids that you’re likely to find growing either in a greenhouse such as this, or that you can buy at a garden center, are probably what we call epiphytic or tropical orchids, meaning they are orchids that in nature are found growing on other plants, especially forest trees,” he said. "But there are many other kinds of orchids as well.”  

    He pointed to a flower that he identified as a Mexipedium orchid.

    “It’s an orchid found in Mexico, that loves growing on rocks,” he said. “It’s therefore called a lithophyte, meaning a plant that grows on rocks.”

    Just like a cactus or any other desert-adapted plant, this orchid can store moisture so that it can handle the long periods of drought in the arid environment.

    Medicinal and dessert orchids

    Novy also pointed to a batch of lovely purple flowers with elongated green leaves called Bletilla Striata, or the Chinese Ground Orchid.
    The Bletilla Striata or the Chinese Ground Orchid, is used in Chinese medicine to stop excessive bleeding. (J. Taboh/VOA)The Bletilla Striata or the Chinese Ground Orchid, is used in Chinese medicine to stop excessive bleeding. (J. Taboh/VOA)
    x
    The Bletilla Striata or the Chinese Ground Orchid, is used in Chinese medicine to stop excessive bleeding. (J. Taboh/VOA)
    The Bletilla Striata or the Chinese Ground Orchid, is used in Chinese medicine to stop excessive bleeding. (J. Taboh/VOA)

    “Not only is it sold because it’s so beautiful,” he said, “but it’s also used in traditional Chinese medicine where it’s ground up into a powder and used to stop excessive bleeding.”
     
    In addition to using orchids for medicinal purposes, many cultures eat them in food products, often unknowingly.

    The most famous edible orchid is the vanilla, said Novy.  “Vanilla is a vine-form orchid that’s native to Central and South America, although vanilla production today is most famous in Madagascar.”

    Madagascar is the largest producer of vanilla beans, but since the island lacks the plant's pollinating bee species, the flowers must be hand-pollinated.

    First Lady orchids

    Orchids, as with roses, are often created to honor someone famous. A large painting of a Cattleya ‘Michelle Obama’ orchid, by orchid artist Patricia Laspino, is on display in the entry foyer of the Garden. It is the latest in a line of First Lady orchids that began in 1929 with the pink bloom named for Lou Henry Hoover, wife of Herbert Hoover.

    Ari Novy says, as a plant scientist, orchids occupy a very special place in his heart. “Orchids are absolutely gorgeous. They capture our imaginations. They showcase all of the colors of the rainbow in a way that’s just wonderful for us to see.”

    “And so at the end of the day," he said, "what we’re trying to do here at the United States Botanic Garden is we’re trying to educate. But we know that we can educate best if we first put a smile on your face.”

    You May Like

    Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.

    New in Music Alley

    Beyond Category: Arturo Sandovali
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    February 02, 2016 3:53 PM
    Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is one of the most exciting musicians in jazz. The multi-Grammy winner takes the Blues Alley stage to perform, and sits down with Beyond Category host Eric Felten to talk about his life in music.

    Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval is one of the most exciting musicians in jazz. The multi-Grammy winner takes the Blues Alley stage to perform, and sits down with Beyond Category host Eric Felten to talk about his life in music.