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ODU's Orchid Conservatory and Tidewater Orchid Society Are Prizewinning Partners

Specklinia microphylla flower

An unusual orchid from Old Dominion University's Kaplan Orchid Conservatory was a best-in-show winner recently at the Virginia Orchid Show in the miniature plants category. The rare species, Specklinia microphylla, endemic to central America and Mexico, sports spikes of tiny yellow flowers initiating from creeping stems, and small, dark-green leathery leaves.

Although the flowers are small and often overlooked, Specklinia have the same design and intricacy as the larger, more showy orchid flowers. The award-winning plant was cultivated and nurtured into a sphere-like shape by Tidewater Orchid Society member Mitzi Lipford and donated to the ODU orchid collection.

Lipford is also a dedicated volunteer in the ODU conservatory, working in the building every Thursday morning. Frank Drew, another Tidewater Orchid Society volunteer, saw the plant in full bloom and took the initiative to enter it in the Virginia Orchid Show competition.

Timothy Motley, ODU's Robert Stiffler Chair in botany and director of the conservatory, said this one competition victory highlights the hard work and dedication that take place behind the scenes in the conservatory.

Since October, when Steve Urick, the former orchid conservator, departed to take a position closer to his home, Motley was left doing two jobs while a replacement was being sought. "It was only with the help of the volunteers from the Tidewater Orchid Society that we were able to keep everything functioning and beautiful," Motley said. "They really stepped up, with volunteers organizing to come in every day of the week to help care for the more than 1,500 plants and assist with building operations."

Dave and Joanne Bryan, who come every Monday, headed the volunteer crew. Dave, a retired engineer, has been invaluable in solving mechanical and electrical problems, according to Motley.

The conservatory never missed a beat over the winter months, having a constant display (open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays to the public) and hosting course labs, public tours, gardens clubs, scientific societies, and ODU student and parent groups. Other volunteers that came by weekly were Audrey Knall, Evalyn and Tony Walch, and Howard Warren.

Motley announced earlier this month that Marcus Jones, with 15 years of horticultural experience, has come on board as the new orchid conservator. Motley will step back into his administrative role as director of the conservatory.

One of the first events at the facility under Jones' leadership occurred April 26, when the Virginia Historic Homes and Gardens Tour visited.

This article was posted on: May 17, 2012

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