This blog post finally really focuses on Orchids! 🙂 I had a company visit at Taisuco Orchids today. Also I will briefly talk about my visit to Longshan Temple in Taipei in the morning:
I stood up early today to visit Longshan Temple, a large temple in Taipei which I had already visited in 2011. Here you can find my previous blog entry with more information about the temple. When I arrived there this time, I was happy to see a lot of flowers: Also many beautiful Orchids! I was surprised and asked a lady why there are so many flowers. She told me that it was the birthday of Mazu (the goddess of the sea) yesterday (on the 23th of October). Such a shame, I missed the celebrations! But at least I still got to see the flowers.
As I arrived to the temple at 8:30 in the morning, it seemed to be prayer time in Longshan Temple. Many people were there, singing/praying together. It was a very nice atmosphere and I tried to stay in the background and not to intrude on the prayers. I was surprised that some people didn’t try to walk the temple quietly: A group of (western) tourists followed a tour guide who loudly explained the temple to them.
Prayer at Longshan Temple:
So afterwards I left Taipei again. At 10:00 am I took a train all the way to Tainan, Xinying. Here I had agreed to meet with Susan Lin from Taisuco Orchids to show me their facilities.
Ms. Lin was very nice and knowledgeable about the company. She told me many things that I can’t all write down tonight, so I will give you a short version now and write more detail after my return to Germany. (After writing everything I realize that it isn’t that short after all… ^^)
So first a few company facts:
Taisuco Orchids is the brand name for Orchid sales, the company itself is called Taiwan Sugar Corporation. This state owned company has eight very diverse divisions, focusing on different products. For instance one division sells pigs to the local Taiwanese market. Another division exports sugar.
The Taisuco Orchid division focuses on the production of Phalaenopsis Orchids (a very popular type of Orchid). They only sell 10 % of their production to the local market, 90% are exported. In 2012 they exported 4 900 000 Orchids! That is a huge number!
Taisuco Orchids has subsidiaries in USA, Canada and Holland. In order to sell in those countries, they will ship the Orchids without stems to their subsidiaries. There they will force flowers and then sell the blooming Orchids locally. This solves the problem of long distance transport of blooming Orchids. In Germany we might also find products from Taisuco Orchids, most likely they will reach us through the subsidiary in Holland.
Orchid crossing and cloning
Taisuco Orchids is constantly developing new, beautiful Phalaenopsis Orchid varieties. Each year they create around 200 crosses (crossing between a father and mother Orchid to gain a new combination), in order to find new varieties. From the many crosses, they will choose the most beautiful to enter into mass production.
For crossing, they use pollination and then plant the seeds into a nourishing medium (The medium looks a bit like Jelly and contains natural but also chemical ingredients and hormones). As they grow, they will move from flask to flask in laboratories and then into small pots in the greenhouse.
Orchid with seed capsule that developes after pollination:
Growing in flasks:
To decide which plants go into mass production, they will be tested on for instance their needs for temperature and light intensity. Also it is interesting how long they bloom or how resistant they are. In a test greenhouse, flowers are forced to see how the flowers look. In a test room, Orchids are kept without air conditioning to see how long the flowers would last in a normal shop environment.
Cute orchid in test room:
I asked Ms. Lin if there is a “perfect Orchid” they are trying to create. Smiling she said that a sparkling Orchid would be great. – Good luck with that! 😉 More realistic sounded her suggestions for a black Orchid or a “rainbow” Orchid where each flower has a different color. All off these will be difficult to achieve as they do not exist in nature. Generally Orchids with long spikes and large flowers are preferred by customers. However especially large Orchids make it more difficult to transport them.
Experiments with colour (this colour is not from breeding but from adding dye!)
Taisuco Orchids has patents for some very special varieties, but only for the Taiwan market. So they can’t really control if some of their varieties are cloned on an overseas market.
For mass production, they create mericlones (exact clones) from the Orchid they wish to copy. This is done by cutting pieces from the spike of an Orchid, preferably when the first flowers have just opened. A piece from the spike with a node will be put into a nourishing medium. From the node, the Orchid will then grow again. After new growth, these pieces can then be cut again and so multiplied.
Spike node in medium with new growth:
I also asked Ms. Lin if there are Orchid species originated on Taiwan. She also knew about the Pleione Orchid I had found in Alishan. Additionally she could tell me that the Phalaenopsis Amabilis, a beautiful white Orchid, originated on Lanyu. So this is the Orchid that I had been looking for there! But she also believes that this Orchid is likely to be extinct in nature.
Ms. Lin couldn’t say it exactly, but this Orchids are definitely closely related to the Amabilis Orchid:
Thank you so much Taisuco Orchids for having me! It was really an interesting visit!
After my visit to Taisuco Orchids I directly continued by train to Kaohsiung. I didn’t have time to visit Tainan unfortunately. In Kaohsiung I went back t to the hostel Backpacker 41 where I had already stayed some days ago.
I am currently on a trip sponsored by the Youth Trekker Wanted Campaign. As part of this campaign, young people from around the world get to travel Taiwan with a budget from the organizers. In return, we write daily blog posts during our trips. While I therefore not have to pay for this trip, what I write in this blog is my own, true opinion. For more information on the activity, check http://youthtravel.tw/youthtrekker/. I am also posting my blog entries on an official activity blog here.