Sunday, December 26, 2010
This plant has a special place in my heart because it was one of the first that I successfully pollinated and grew offspring from. The plant itself could be described as “cute” since it has short, fat pseudobulbs topped by compact leaves, the whole plant spreading laterally, but not standing much more than 8 inches tall. The flowers are another matter entirely. Every winter a long stalk shoots up to a height several times that of the plant, producing a cluster of creamy white flowers with a deep purple center. The flower petals and sepals are tinged with lavender when they open, but soon fade to ivory, since my specimen is a cross between the white and yellow forms. Every year more flowers are produced; this year’s stalk is over two feet tall and boasts 14 perfect blossoms. The plant is sitting on my desk as I write, but I can’t even see the flowers because they’re way over my head. The photo shows the plant in its younger days, when it just had a few flowers.
Laelia rubescens flowers are fragrant, but not in the way you would expect orchids to smell. Their scent is mostly wintergreen and root beer. I have read that fresh tuberose flowers also have a wintergreen note, and the tuberose absolute that I have does indeed include a slight wintergreen note along with everything else. It’s interesting that Laelia rubescens flowers on a mature plant look a bit like the pictures I’ve seen of tuberose, and both are native to Mexico and Central America. Could they be attracting some of the same pollinators? Could one be mimicking the other?
I do not recall ever smelling fresh tuberose flowers, so to remedy this gap in my education I just ordered some tuberose bulbs. I guess I’ll find out what real tuberose smells like next summer.