Phal Goes Indigo

Blue Orchid

Indigo Mystique Phalaenopsis Orchid

Blue orchid dyeing craftsmanship has reached new depths: Silver Vase, the Florida nursery that, in early 2011, had brought North Americans the electric-“Blue Mystique” phalaenopsis orchid, has done it again. Be prepared for “Indigo Mystique”!

Either loved or hated, Blue Mystique has rattled Western culture’s perception of truth, beauty, and nature in its unadultered state – leaving few orchid enthusiasts indifferent.
Technically speaking, infusing an orchid plant with dye solution, thus achieving a superficial, reversible and temporary color change, could be interpreted as less tampering with nature as is the case with breeding desirable color traits into hybrids on a genetic level.
Blue Mystique’s novelty orchid (middle) sister Indigo’s arrival has brought orchid mass production one step closer to willing a royal-blue, true blue phalaenopsis orchid into existence.

Indigo Mystique flowers are of electric-indigo blue coloring; yet unopened buds are to display lighter shades, somewhere between indigo and fuchsia. Subsequent blooming cycles will reveal Indigo Mystique’s spotless fuchsia nature, and generate sighs of relief among orchid purists.

Silver Vase orchids are distributed through wholesale only, and cannot be sourced individually from Silver Vase Nurseries. Garden centers that do not carry Mystique orchids might be more than willing to stock them, once their customers express interest and intent to purchase.

The Mystiques are, in fact, non-identical triplets that have come into being within a few months of each other. Number three is Lila Mystique, a white orchid infused with lavender dye, easier on the eye than her extrovert, electric-shade sisters, nevertheless making a bold, intensely lilac statement (the first time around).

Tending to a Mystique phal is no different from caring for any phalaenopsis orchid.

The truth of Indigo Mystique’s beauty – as with everything – lies in the (inner and outer) eyes of its beholder.

Blue Orchid Flower

Lila Mystique Phalaenopsis Orchid


On Orchids and Courage


DENDROBIUM CYANOCENTRUM (Image: Orchi - Wikimedia Commons)


Men's 'Got Orchids?' T-Shirt

The term ‘orchid’ is based on the Greek ‘orchis’, which stands for ‘testicle’, of which the orchid flower’s bulbs are reminiscent. Testicles, in turn, symbolize virility, masculinity, and strength. In a broader sense, they are associated with courage and backbone – for women, men and children alike.

Guts are as much in demand today as they were in Ancient Greece, with the exception that they are now referred to as orchids, or testicles. They are one of the secret ingredients of true humanity: on a personal level, in a group, and society as such.

Civilizations are evolved to the extent at which they promote and protect the well-being of all its members, regardless of demographics. They teach responsibility and community, and provide special training to those in need of extra coaching.

Following is an example for personal / neighborhood / institutionalized courage – or the lack thereof,  a summary of the recent happenings in a sleepy hamlet of 200 in central Germany:

The participants:

–          A retired couple in their seventies, happy and easy-going village residents for almost ten years;

–          A new neighbor, male, tall and muscular;

–          The neighbor’s father, living elsewhere in the village – a former colleague of the older man;

–          The rest of the village;

–          The government.

The events:

–          Three months ago, while the older man was walking a friend’s dog on the village road, the young neighbor stopped and jumped out of his car right next to the older man, on the middle of the road. The young man, whom the older man had never met before, started yelling at the older man that he was fed up with him, detailing grueling actions he would take against the older man, his wife, and a third person.

–          The older man went to see the young neighbor’s father, hoping to resolve the incident among former colleagues.

–          The young neighbor’s father went to talk to his son. He refused all communication with the older man from that moment on.

–          The older man went to file a police report. He was told that German law only applies to acts, but not threats. The only options were to apply for a restraining order (punishable with a fine if non-compliant), and a friendly social worker visit to the neighbor, for a casual chat. Police advised the older man that next time, he better made sure to have a witness with him.

–          In the weeks following the first encounter on the village road, many more incidents have occurred: More verbal aggressions; insults yelled from the young neighbor’s property almost daily; objects thrown on the older couple’s side; their mailbox demolished twice.

–          The older man never replied to any of the aggressions, opting to stay calm and restrained, to repair the mailbox and put it up again, to let a lawyer do whatever little could be done.

–          One of the other next-door neighbors had informally visited the young man, with no result to speak of.

–          The older couple will move out soon, leaving the village.

The older man and his wife keep going in their noble and lonesome fight, with no more than little help along the way. The young neighbor’s family, most of the community and society are merely watching.

Balls anyone? Got orchids?

* * *

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Blue Orchid

Ophrys Speculum (Image: Hans Hillewaert)

Truly blue flowers are less frequent than those in other primary colors. When inventing blue orchids, nature created even less variety. Why is that?

The color of a flower or plant depends on heredity, environmental factors, and color perception.

Coloring is mostly predetermined on a cellular level. A plant’s potential genetic color palette consists of only four pigments:

  • Chlorophyll (green) creates the coloring of leaves and stems and is present in all plants.
  • Flavones (pale yellow; colors invisible to human eye) can be found in roses.
  • Carotenes (yellow; orange) ensure the coloring of sunflowers and marigolds.
  • Anthocyanidins (red; blue; purple) give geraniums, day lilies, violas, delphiniums and blue orchids their color. The bluest blue is created by delphinidin which does not exist in orchids. Blue pigmentation is rare in other flowers as well. Most blue flowers are closer to purple and lilac than they are to true blue.

Several pigments may be present within the same plant, creating unique shades of color.

The flowers of blue orchids from the same species may come in many different shades. A blue Cattleya could be lilac, rose blue, blue-lavender, lavender-blue, blue-violet, blue-purple or indigo blue – and anything in between!

Soil acidity and light exposure play a part in manifesting the blue color that has been genetically enabled. Blue orchids either grow on the ground (terrestrial), high up on trees (epiphytes) or on rocks or tree bases respectively (lithophytes).

According to orchid expert Robert J. Griesbach, PhD, ‘…the blue color in many orchid flowers is known to be associated with an alkaline floral pH. Research on some blue orchid forms has shown that blue color increases as the floral pH becomes more alkaline.’  A pH of 7 and higher is alkaline.

Depending on how much light and shade an orchid receives, coloring of its blooms may vary. Blue Vanda orchids, for example, originally are epiphytes, sometimes lithophytes, hence receive light that has – at least partly – been filtered through foliage. Exposing them to full sun light will produce purple-hued flowers rather than blue ones.

Hereditary blue color pigmentation being expressed with the help of ideal soil and light conditions, blue color is visible only when reflected by light. To identify a blue orchid as blue, the eye seeing it must be able to perceive its blue color. While the female human eye is capable of discerning a wider range of blues than that of a man, insects can see color pigments that are invisible to humans. Hence only beetles, bees and butterflies might know which white orchids are in reality blue.


Blue Orchid

Thelymitra macrophylla (Image: Arthur Chapman)

Orchids in general stand for beauty, charm, elegance, strength and peace.

In ancient Greece, they symbolized virility, fertility and sexuality: The word ‘orchid’ is derived from the Greek word ‘orchis’ (testicles) of which the plant’s roots are reminiscent. To influence a baby’s gender, either the father (to conceive a boy) or mother (to have a baby girl) would consume orchid root.

The Chinese also associate orchids with fertility, and with refinement, thoughtfulness and the innocence of children. Orchids’ curative powers are used to treat cough and respiratory problems.

In Mexico, already the Aztecs consumed vanilla orchid-chocolate drinks for strength and power.

In Victorian England, where great numbers of orchids were shipped from exotic, faraway lands (most of them not surviving the voyage), they were associated with luxury, which they were – accessible only to a small, wealthy elite. The sensual meaning had been omitted as it did not conform to moral standards.

Historically, orchids in general and blue ones in particular also stand for rarity and collector’s greed.

Today, orchids represent an important economical factor for producer countries, such as Taiwan, Thailand, Brazil and the Netherlands.

Blue is the color that is easiest to perceive in the dark. When placed beside other colors, it recedes and gives the impression of depth. This quality also makes small spaces appear larger when painted or decorated in blue.

Male and female eyes see blue color pigments differently: Men concentrate on major categories, such as dark blue or light blue. Women differentiate detail, i.e. royal blue, indigo blue, purple blue…

Dark shades of blue stand for confidence, masculinity and corporate strength. Lighter blues are perceived as more feminine.

Blue has a calming, cooling, relaxing effect, to the point of promoting rest, lowering tension and anxiety. The peaceful calm of spirituality and meditation is equally associated with the color blue.

Bringing together the symbolism of blue color and orchids, the meaning of blue orchids would be rare, refreshing beauty of great value; profound, luxurious strength; dark blue testosterone and charming fertile calmness – yin and yang.

This is how 1930/40s swing-era jazz legend Glenn Miller summed up the meaning of blue orchid flowers:

Glenn Miller - Blue Orchids lyrics

Blue Orchids
Glenn Miller
- words and music by Hoagy Carmichael

I dreamed of two blue orchids
Two beautiful blue orchids
One night while in my lonely room
I dreamed of two blue orchids
So full of love and light
That I wanted to possess each tender bloom
Then my dream took wings
And through a thousand springs
Blue orchids seemed in a world apart
But when I met you
Something pale and blue
Came stealing from the meadows of my heart
I saw my two blue orchids
My beautiful blue orchids
Last night and what a sweet surprise
When you looked at me
It was plain to see
Blue orchids only bloom in your eyes.

Lyrics provided by: