Daily Archives: February 5, 2008

The Pigeon Orchid is flowering again…

Today, as I was walking from NUS through the Dover estate to take a public bus to go back home, I witnessed the many Dendrobium crumenatum plants that were in full bloom.

Commonly known as the pigeon orchid, it is perhaps the most commonest epiphytic orchid seen perching on the trees in Singapore. I reckon most of these have been ‘planted’ or so-called ‘re-introduced’ by the National Parks Board (NParks) into Singapore’s landscape.  

This orchid, unfortunately, because of its presence in most of the streetscape trees in Singapore, locals here have regarded it as an ‘roadside orchid’ and hardly anyone grows it in their gardens. This orchid isn’t particularly showy when not in bloom and looks like a big mess of pseudostems and leaves perched on tree branches.

Aunties prefer those colourful, gawdy cut-flower Dendrobium hybrids. Orchid enthusiasts, instead, grow what we call ‘collector’s orchids’ which mainly feature orchid species from other countries, which may well be ‘roadside’ orchids in their native countries where they may be seen just anywhere…

It has almost become common knowledge that the flowers of the pigeon orchid develop after prolonged wet weather. One saying was that the flowering was triggered by the sudden drop in temperature of 5.5 oC or more caused by a heavy downpour. The buds appear nine days after such a time. Such drastic temperature drops may only occur in one small area and hence it is not unusual to witness gregarious flowering of this orchid that cannot be seen anywhere else.

At the time of posting this blog entry, I have not been able to find any scientific study that have been done to understand the mechanism behind it. My scientific question – is it the drop in temperature or the rainfall that causes this sudden burst of blooms?

The small, white, dainty flowers of the pigeon orchid, unfortunately, do not last long and they look good only or a day or two. I was told that the flowers are strongly fragrant but while I was taking the pictures, I wasn’t able to detect any scent.