UH Manoa presents ‘Okika o Hawai‘i exhibit

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Teri Skillman, (808) 956-8688
Events & Communications Coordinator
Posted: May 26, 2009

University of Hawaii at Mānoa‘s Hamilton library is proud to present an exhibit entitled, ʻOkika o Hawaiʻi ~ Pressed for Time, that focuses on orchids in Hawai‘i. The exhibit, on display in Hamilton Library‘s Bridge Gallery, is the result of collaboration between several campus and community partners coordinated by Michael Thomas (Collection Manager, Joseph F. Rock Herbarium, Botany), Teri Skillman (Events & Communications Coordinator) and Deborah Dunn (Preservation Department).

Orchids have captivated humankind‘s imagination since time immemorial. Orchids are the largest and most diverse plant family on Earth. They are cosmopolitan, occurring in almost every habitat apart from deserts and glaciers. The majority are found in the tropics, mostly Asia, South America and Central America. They are found above the Arctic Circle, in southern Patagonia and even on Macquarie Island, close to Antarctica. The first hint of orchids in the fossil record, suggests orchids are old enough to have coexisted with dinosaurs, 76 to 84 million years ago.

The Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew lists 880 genera and nearly 22,000 accepted species, but the exact number is unknown and may perhaps be as many as 25,000 species. The number of orchid species equals about four times the number of mammal species, or more than twice the number of bird species.

The majority of orchids are perennial epiphytes, which grow anchored to trees or shrubs in the tropics and subtropics. Other species are lithophytes -- growing on rocks or very rocky soil -- or they are terrestrial. Nearly all temperate orchids are terrestrial.

Orchids are one of the most widely recognizable and studied organisms. Studied not only by evolutionary biologists such as Charles Darwin, fascinated with orchids‘ spectacular adaptations for insect pollination but also as a source of inspiration for artists. Over the centuries orchids have been a symbol of love, luxury and beauty. They have been used as a remedy for illnesses. They have also been considered an aphrodisiac and a main ingredient in love potions. The most famous orchid used as a spice for ice cream is Vanilla planifolia, more commonly known as vanilla.

Historically considered a flower of the wealthy, the orchid has been transformed by humankind to become one of the most widely collected household plants. In modern times, horticulturalists have artificially created more than 100,000 hybrids and cultivars. Unfortunately, this global popularity has had serious consequences and today many orchids are threatened and endangered by loss of natural habitat, and over-collection.

The exhibit presents botanical prints and rare orchids native to the Hawaiian Islands; a living orchid garden of species being propagated by Hawaii orchid growers; the way in which orchids transformed the landscape through agricultural development, university research, and commercial enterprise in Hawaii; the cultural uses of the orchid in Hawaiian lei making, music, and hula; and, a diverse array of orchid inspired Oshibana artworks.

The exhibit will be on display through June 22, 2009, in the Hamilton Library Bridge Gallery during building hours: http://library.manoa.hawaii.edu/about/hours.html.

For more information about the exhibit please call, Teri Skillman (808) 956-8688 or email skillman@hawaii.edu