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Orchids ... The Flowers of Elegance

Once upon a time several Southeast Asian airlines presented a beautiful orchid corsage to lady passengers or decorated meal trays with a colorful orchid blossom. Sadly this practice seems to have diminished but orchids remain as elegant and popular as ever. Chiangmai, aside from being a great holiday destination, is a wonderful place to see masses of orchids in a host of displays. Our present cool season brings forth blossoms of every shade and hue so this is a time for visitors to enjoy varieties of orchids which, perhaps, they have never seen before.

Nature, in its bountiful way, has produced in excess of 1,000 species of orchid. They are all unique and, when it comes to the process of pollination, cunningly clever in inviting their chosen pollinator to come visit. Different orchids have different pollinators and some pollinators, indeed, are definitely not welcome. For instance the friendly bee, which pollinates so many flowering plants, is not on the welcome list for orchids. In fact, should a bee hover nearby, the orchid will produce a substance that encourages the bee to buzz off. On the other hand, wasps are favored by some orchid species but not all. Whichever is the chosen insect pollinator for an orchid, it is lured to its work by a combination of scent, color and shape of the bloom. Once the insect has arrived some orchids will make it wriggle through a labyrinth of petals until pollen has been safely deposited and collected.

Not too many years ago, orchids were found only in the wild and many species were under threat from a changing environment usually caused by slash and burn agricultural practices and lack of education. So ecologists and horticulturists determined to bring the wild species into controlled conditions and, where possible, improve on the beauty, color and range of nature. This ongoing work has proved a great success to the degree that visitors to Chiangmai and Northern Thailand can see the greatest extravaganza of orchids in all of Southeast Asia. On a commercial basis, there are many orchid farms from where millions of cut orchid blooms are exported annually. Visitors may readily take a morning or afternoon excursion to an orchid farm within easy distance from Chiangmai City center. Such a visit will prove a great delight to flower-lovers and photographers eye catching, vivid splashes of color indigo, orange, red, yellow give way to delicate pastels and blushes o f lilac, honey, pink and primrose. There are even small, speckled varieties and large blooms in stunning snow white. Time spent at an orchid farm (or Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens) is relaxing, educational and fascinating, Quality time!

For those who do not visit an orchid farm, a stroll or cycle ride through Chiangmais narrow, residential sois will demonstrate how much our locals love their orchids. Gardens and patios of many homes, both mansion and modest, are a pageant of orchid display. Some varieties stand proudly in clumps while others drape gracefully from hanging pots and tree trunks. A rainbow spectrum of natures creation and mans enhancement.

As a welcome visitor to Chiangmai and our Kingdom of Lanna Thai, we invite you to share and enjoy the spectacular beauty of our native orchids. Magnificent, Beautiful and Elegant. The Orchid Thailands National Flower.

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