The Black Orchid Mystery: Do They Really Exist?

Ask anyone who believes in unicorns and mermaids if there is such thing as a black orchid, and the answer is yes. Consult an orchid expert and the answer, sadly, is no. They do not. Nor do black tulips, black roses or any other flower. As a matter of fact, no flower is truly black. The truth is a disappointment to those who can think of many occasions that would be well represented by black flowers, be it a prom, funeral, wedding or vampire-themed party. Unfortunately, the only truly black flowers are those made of silk or paper mache.

The craze and the hunt for the elusive and magical black orchid struck Europe during the 19th century, so it's not a recent fantasy of breeders. Even then, there was a great deal of speculation about the possibility of a black orchid. Breeders had no more luck coaxing black out of the genes of the orchid than they had with tulips or roses. But hope abounds even now, and the rumors of a glossy black orchid routinely make the rounds of those who would give a pretty penny for just one black bloom.

Writers, poets and story tellers warned in both prose and story that such a flower could summon evil spirits. The imagery makes for great reading, but the fantasy, like all fantasy, has yet to produce a tangible tale or orchid to accompany the elaborate imagery.

There are flowers, yeseven orchidsthat are so dark they appear black, but they're more in the intensely purple range. One of the best known of the dark orchids is a native Australian orchid, the Cymbidium canaliculatun var Sparkesii. It's an intense dark maroon, with a touch of white and dark purple on the labellum. Don't expect to see it while strolling along a forest path though. The Cymbidium canaliculatun var Sparkesil loves heights. It grows high in the trees of Australia, in hollow branches and crevices.

The popular and original "Black Orchid," the Trichoglottis brachiata (or philippinense var brachiata), is an entirely different type of orchid. It likes to climb to great heights. More red to dark purple, it's not anywhere near what one would call black, but it's still referred to by the name, "Black Orchid."

Trichoglottis brachiata will produce side shoots and grow into a specimen, with many flowers produced at the nodes along the stem. Each flower is up to 5 cm across. The color tends towards a rich velvety dark maroon, with a prominently marked purple lip. The color is dark, bu the fragrance is not. This dark flower has a lovely smell and a long-lived life.

There are others, ranging in color from the deep chocolate of a coffee bean to the purple of an evening sky, but Mother Nature, for whatever reason she may have, has decided there is no reason to grace the world with licorice-colored blooms.

Whether you're simply curious about black flowers in general, or black orchids in particular, the news is the same. There is no such creature. And if there is? It's found in the same land where fairies, unicorns and mermaids live.