Yes. Vanilla is a member if the orchid family. Vanilla flavor is a very popular ingredient added to foods. Perhaps as much as 98% of this flavor is made artificially and is called vanillin. This is because of the great labor expense to cultivate, harvest and process the vanilla bean (pod) and seeds. It starts out as a fertilized flower which develops a pod filled with seeds. The fertilization was done by insects especially bees when originally found in Madagascar. Today however, the favored bee is either in such diminished numbers or may be extinct in some areas that the flowers are never pollinated. Much of the natural product that we have in the USA comes from Mexico. To produce the bean, human intervention is therefore necessary to carry out the insemination process.

The plants are interesting because they start out rooted in the soil and then embrace a tree or trellace to gain height in their search for sunlight and nutrients. I found two sources of vanilla plants in my exploration of SWFL. One is at the Wonder Garden in Bonita Springs FL and a group are at the Edison and Ford Winter Estate in Fort Myers FL.

Vanilla orchid embracing a tree in the Edison and Ford Winter Estate, Fort Myers, Fl. Note the blooms which need pollination to produce fruit.

The plant in The Wonder Garden in Bonita Springs FL is very similar or identical to the plant captioned above. In fact is may be a sibling. I was surprised to see that the plant at the Wonder Garden was no longer attached to the soil and was therefore a true air plant like a typical orchid.

Vanilla plants for sale at the Wonder Garden

In another blog we can see various forms of orchids which are not typical of the florid plants that we appreciate so much.

#Vanilla #orchid #pollination #flavor

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