A Mendenhall orchid which was on display at the Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club’s 30th annual show and sale Sunday in Honalo. (Brad Ballesteros/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Orchid collectors, enthusiasts and newbies file through the rows of unique flowers for sale under a canopy. Some residents were buying up as many orchid plants as they could carry. Sales were brisk at the Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club’s 30th annual show and sale Sunday in Honalo. (Brad Ballesteros/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Roland Maurer of Kailua-Kona takes a close look at one of the orchids on display at the Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club’s 30th annual show and sale Sunday in Honalo. (Brad Ballesteros/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Kona Daifukuji Soto Mission taiko drummers provided some exciting entertainment at the Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club’s 30th annual show and sale Sunday in Honalo. (Brad Ballesteros/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Exquisite shapes, vibrant colors, and alluring fragrances of one of the world’s most exotic flowers fascinated attendees of Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club’s 30th annual show and sale Sunday in Honalo.
The breathtaking spectacle of blooming orchids evoked fascination and discussion, as well as drew gasps of awe and constant snapping of close-up photos. The elaborate display featured numerous flowers, including cattleya, cymbidium, dendrobium, phalaenopsis and miltonia — all grown by the club’s 55 members.
For hundreds of years, people have collected, hunted and treasured orchids, which have adapted to a variety of environments. They grow on rocks, tree branches or in the ground. Some orchids take years to bloom while others bloom annually or year-round. The blooms and sizes vary, from big showy and architectural wonder-like to microscopic. With more than 25,000 species in the world, plus thousands of hybrids, there’s a great diversity and beauty in orchids, club president Dick Kuehner said.
The largest shown Sunday was Vandopsis, which can have 6- to 8-foot-long stems and be up to 20 feet tall, while the smallest was Mecliorcalum decoratum with its petite pomegranate-like flowers, said club historian Carol Zakahi.
The orchid that impressed Netherlands resident Mya Denys the most was Dendrobium filiforme. She said it was “surprising” to see an orchid with multiple thin and wire-like spikes possessing tightly arranged golden-green flowers lined in rows.
Denys and her husband, who was an orchid grower for 22 years, attended the club’s show and sale 15 years ago. She was pleased to see how the event has grown, offering more varieties, each ‘“so different” from each other. She encouraged more people to consider having orchids, adding there are many that are easy to grow.
The Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club is West Hawaii’s oldest orchidaceae organization. Originally led by the late Tom Kadooka, the club formed in 1982. It still boasts eight charter members, each of whom have grown orchids for at least 30 years at different elevations. Meeting the second Wednesday of every month at the Daifukuji Soto Mission Hall, the club strives to learn, teach and foster orchid culture, as well as promote fellowship among orchid collectors, Kuehner said.
The club’s first orchid show occurred Sept. 18, 1982, and more than 750 people attended. This year’s theme was “Kona’s Orchids Through Time.” Prominently featured was the Vanda Miss Joaquim in a tributary display to Kadooka, the club’s adviser, a developer of Hawaii Island’s vanilla industry and a pioneer of the local flower industry who grew orchids, anthuriums and mums. He died in 2004, Zakahi said.
“His intense knowledge and experience of orchids gave us the basics of orchid growing. At the beginning of our club history, he had a field of Vanda Miss Joaquim. He grew and marketed the blossoms of the vanda, and also selected a special cultivator— a winter variety that produced more flowers during the cool months, when blossoms were scarce,” she said. “He told us the blossoms were 3 cents per bloom then. This deep purple clone graced the dinner plates of the local hotels and was used for the famous Mauna Loa lei given to tourists, dignitaries, and even used for high school prom dates.”
Zakahi also revealed interesting tidbits regarding Vanda Miss Joaquim’s Hawaii roots. Christened Leicester Winthrop Bryan, a retired Army infantry colonel, Territory of Hawaii forestry officer and Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association forester, first saw this orchid in the 1930s at the Singapore Botanical Gardens and knew it could be grown successfully in Hawaii.
“Obtaining 28 cuttings of the plants from the gardens, he took them back to Hilo where he propagated them by stem cuttings. Very shortly, other growers saw the potential of this orchid as a paying crop, and within a few years, there were thousands of islanders growing it, bring his cuttings into 10,000 blooming plants,” she said. “His efforts launched an orchid growing industry in Hawaii. The orchid, Vanda Miss Joaquim, went on to become one of the island’s leading commercial orchid-growing centers of the world.”
An outdoor sale of high-quality orchid species and hybrids was held, with profits going back to the club to support its activities. There, an orchid called Oncidium Sharry Baby, with long spikes of red and white flowers that smelled like chocolate, delighted noses of all ages.
Prior to the event’s start, a line of residents formed just outside the tent, where the sale occurred. All were eager to have a look at some of the unique and rarer species grown and sold by club members and vendors. They were either planning to add to an existing collection or start a new one, Kuehner said.
The show and sale is something the club looks forward to every year because it creates an atmosphere where knowledge can be passed on, he said. Club members and attendees often use the event as an opportunity to exchange tips on everything from fertilizer to lighting techniques. It’s also a chance to get some solutions to orchid care problems and insight from experience growers and collectors.
For more information about orchids or the club, call 328-8375.