Attention orchid fans: our vanilla orchid is blooming in the Tropical Greenhouse at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It’s a rare occurrence in the wild—and in a greenhouse. Wade Wheatley, assistant horticulturist, seized the moment to hand-pollinate the flower.
Why hand pollinate? In hopes of producing a vanilla bean. Yes, the fruit of a vanilla orchid is used to make pure vanilla extract, which flavors many foods we enjoy.
Vanilla vines typically begin to flower at five years or older. Flowers are produced in clusters, with one flower opening each day in the morning. Stop by the Tropical Greenhouse soon to see what’s in bloom.