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Almanac: The First Orchid Hybrid

Air Date: Week of

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This week, facts about the first orchid hybrid ever created. When Calanthe Dominii successfully flowered, one scientist predicted, "It will drive the botanists mad!"


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.


CURWOOD: October 1856 was a big month for botany. That's when flowers bloomed on the world's first hybrid orchid. Botanist John Dominy raised the plant at a nursery in Exeter, England. The name? Calanthe Dominii, meaning, Dominy's beautiful flower. It was a breakthrough for the plant world, but one horticulturist warned, "You'll drive the botanists mad." And perhaps he did. Mr. Dominy started a trend that has blossomed almost beyond belief. He had produced 25 hybrid orchids by the time he retired in 1880. At the turn of the century there were more than 1,000. And today, the count is past 200,000 varieties and still climbing. Each year some 2,000 new hybrid orchids of all shapes, sizes and colors appear in greenhouses and at shows, and some are, well, downright bizarre. Consider the recent work of a genetic engineer in Singapore. Adding bioluminescent DNA from a firefly to an orchid produced a hybrid that actually glows in the dark. And that's this week's Living on Earth Almanac.




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