This epiphytic (grows on the branches and trunks of trees) orchid species bears small, delicate white flowers with long, curved nectar spurs that emit a sweet, coconut-like perfume. Each inflorescence can produce from three to 15 fragrant flowers, providing continuous bloom for up to two months.
They are relatively easy to grow, given medium light and temperatures to 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night and daytime temperatures in the mid-70s.
A famous native of Japan, Neofinetia falcata was the favorite orchid of the ruling shogun. The orchid is named after Achille Finet (1862-1913), a French botanist who studied the orchids of Japan and China. The type of species was introduced to the West from Japan in 1784 by Carl Peter Thunberg. Known as fuh-ran, or the orchid of the winds, in pre-industrial Japan, Neofinetia falcata could only be grown by samurai warriors, which led to its common name, the samurai orchid. It is believed to have been the first orchid ever grown in Japan as a houseplant in the 1600s.
The orchid family consists of a large number of genera, each with its own unique characteristics. A common characteristic, however, is the basic form of the flower, which consists of three petals surrounded by three sepals -- often in dramatic and contrasting colors and in a variety of shapes and sizes. Although some orchids are native to temperate zones, most orchids tend to prefer a semi-tropical or tropical environment (USDA Zones 9-11) and have epiphytic roots -- meaning they derive moisture and nutrients from the air and support from another plant; few orchids grow in soil. Orchids usually prefer a diurnal temperature fluctuation -- meaning warmer days and cooler nights -- though the absolute temperature range (cool, intermediate or warm) varies by genus and is consistent with their natural habitat. While requiring adequate sunlight for a stunning bloom display, most orchids will not tolerate sustained direct sun.
Many varieties have pseudobulbs, a portion of the stem between leaf nodes that stores water to help sustain the plant through dry periods. Other varieties are monopodial, meaning upward growth is from a single growing point.
There is an exception to almost every general statement one can make about orchids. The family continues to challenge taxonomists.
January - February, March - April