The Beauty and Sensuality of Orchids

Thailand Beauty ( x Mokara )
Thailand Beauty ( x Mokara ) . Photo © KIKE CALVO


Orchids are fascinating flowers. Shapes and colors in “packages” of different sizes, which resemble animals, birds and insects. Some are small, a few millimeters, as the Falacte Trizeuxis. or much larger, up to 70 cm, as the Phragmipedium Caudatum.

A while ago, the Magazine “Natur” dedicated an article to the Holcoglossum Amesianum, an orchid that performs a dance that defies gravity, turning almost 360 degrees to pollinate itself. This is an exception, since, generally, pollination is done by bees, flies, butterflies, and some birds. The seduction of pollinators is made by offering nectar in some cases and in others, perfumes and pheromones. Some species form a powder similar to bee pollen which is used as food.

Tillondsia Usneoides Orchid. Photo © KIKE CALVO
Tillondsia Usneoides Orchid. Photo © KIKE CALVO


In Japan, the samurais have been growing orchids for many years. An old legend says that an emperor barren woman inhaled the scent of an orchid, Cybidum Ensifolium, and later had 13 children. The boys are called Lan, and were ones the first to cultivate. Confucius who was described as the queen orchid who embodied the beautiful fragrance and the literature related to the idea of perfection and elegance.

The West used to flavor their flowers with scents such as vanilla. In the East, traditional Chinese medicine uses them in different formats. A product called “Shishu” is prepared with various species of Dedrobium, and is recommended for indigestion. They also use derivatives of Loddigesii Dedrobium for his alleged role in anti-cancer stomach, and lung cells.

Tiger Crow or Golden Girl Orchid ( x odontocidum ) Photo © KIKE CALVO
Tiger Crow or Golden Girl Orchid ( x odontocidum ) Photo © KIKE CALVO

In contrast, C. J. Bulpitt, Director of the Orchid Society of Great Britain, said that, despite the large number of alcanoides that exist in orchid tissue, they have not been able to show its medicinal use. Medicinal or not, beauty and sensuality is unquestionable in the essence of the orchid.


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Human Journey

Meet the Author
Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike: