There are many famous orchids at the Singapore Botanic Gardens because it is the heart of orchid hybridisation work and Singapore has a tradition of naming new hybrids after important guests, dignitaries and celebrities.
I personally think that naming and presenting a new orchid hybrid is a great compliment and a wonderful gift to important guests.
Orchid hybridization mixes and matches different orchid breeds to create new beautiful blossoms. I am very proud that Singapore Botanic Gardens is a pioneer and is one of the top centres for orchid research and hybridisation in the world. Our first hybrid orchid Spathoglottis Primrose (S. aurea x S. plicata) flowered in 1931.
Whenever I visit the Singapore Botanic Garden, I look forward to seeing the many orchids on display at the National Orchid Garden. There are so many varieties of shapes and colours. The Gardens is an important place where research and conservation on plant diversity take place. It is also the place where orchids are bred.
I couldn’t find an online image database of all the orchids named after VIPs and celebrities. It would have been nice to see a historical timeline of all the people who had orchids named after them and the stories behind it.
Here is my meagre attempt at compiling a list.
Compilation of my Favourite Famous Orchids
1. Spathoglottis Jane Goodall
Named in 2004 after the leading primate expert and naturalist, Jane Goodall. Learn more about the impact of her work with chimpanzees and conservation at the Jane Goodall Institute and read some of her books.
2. Paravansa Nelson Mandela
Named in 1997 after the first black head of state of South Africa. Nelson Mandela was renowned for fighting against apartheid, South Africa’s racist system all his life. I admired his magnanimity. He bore no grudge against those who imprisoned him for years.
3. Vanda William Catherine
Named in honour of Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge in 2012 when they visited Singapore.
4. Dendrobium Bae Yong Jun
Named in 2004 after the famous Korean film star Bae Yong Jun 裵勇浚 of Winter Sonata fame. Why he should have a flower named after him is beyond me. But the flower is lovely.
5. Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim (previously known as Vanda Miss Joaqium)
Last but not least, our national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim or more accurately Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim. It is named after Ms Agnes Joaquim, who successfully crossed bred two very common orchids found in Singapore: Papilionanthe hookeriana and Papilionanthe teres.
It was chosen as our national flower in 1981 because it has vibrant colours, is hardy and resilient, and flowers all year round. Characters that Singapore as a nation aspires to.