Orchids star in Cambridge University Botanic Garden’s new exhibition

PUBLISHED: 14:52 10 February 2018

Staff at the Botanic Gardens preparing for the Orchid Festival, Phil Gould with Alex Summers. Picture: Keith Heppell

Staff at the Botanic Gardens preparing for the Orchid Festival, Phil Gould with Alex Summers. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

‘How to build and orchid’ opens today.

Staff at the Botanic Gardens preparing for the Orchid Festival, Marie Karsjo with top Caroline Sinnett-Smith. Picture: Keith HeppellStaff at the Botanic Gardens preparing for the Orchid Festival, Marie Karsjo with top Caroline Sinnett-Smith. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cambridge University Botanic Garden is going back to basics in its latest exhibition to reveal ‘how to build an orchid’.

Between February 10 and March 11 visitors will be able to explore the morphology of one of the largest plant families in the world.

With more than 25,000 different species, orchids can be found across every continent apart from Antarctica.

CUBG Glasshouse Supervisor, Alex Summers says: “Each year we choose a theme for our orchid exhibition, and this year we thought it would be great if visitors could leave the Garden really feeling confident they know about the component parts that make up an orchid.

Staff at the Botanic Gardens preparing for the Orchid Festival, Alan Langley. Picture: Keith HeppellStaff at the Botanic Gardens preparing for the Orchid Festival, Alan Langley. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We’re literally stripping orchids back to basics by explaining the key parts of what makes an orchid.”

The exhibition will focus on the key parts of an orchid’s morphology: the seed, flower, pseudobulb and root.

Alex continues: We all admire orchids for their beauty and colour but by asking the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’, we hope that visitors will see beyond the beauty and understand why an orchid

flower looks the way it does or why, for example, some orchids’ roots have a spongy layer and aren’t growing in soil.”

Each house within the Garden’s Glasshouse Range will present one part of the orchid. Large information boards will describe the role of each orchid part, and each house will be filled with different species of orchid from around the world.

There will also be a giant, ‘exploded’ model of an orchid flower suspended over the Glasshouse pool, breaking it up into the individual flower parts.

Alex continues: “We spend months planning the exhibition and weeks behind-the-scenes getting everything ready. We’ve nurtured and grown many of the orchids on display and it’s always a

challenge to get them in flower and looking their bestfor this month-long exhibition.

“We hope visitors will really understand how orchids are built and see firsthand what a diverse family it is - from the long-spurred Angraecum orchid pollinated by moths with super long tongues, to orchids that trick and trap their pollinators, to those which develop specialised structures to enable them to grow on trees and absorb water from the air.

“There really is an orchid built to fascinate everyone!”

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