When I started growing Neofinetia falcata, the marvelous miniature orchids native to Japan and Korea, I was happy to acquire any Neo that looked healthy, especially if it was in spike.
Then I met Manjushage.
Neos are unusual among orchids in that they are prized at least as much for their foliage as for their flowers, which — though wonderfully fragrant, especially at night — are small, have little or no color, and last only about three weeks. Neo blooms do have one special attraction, however: their nectaries.
As their names suggest, nectaries — also known as spurs — are sources of nectar that have evolved in plants to reward pollinators. Several orchid species have them, including Angraecum sesquipedale, whose very long nectaries led Charles Darwin to hypothesize the existence of a moth with an equally lengthy proboscis — an insect that was in fact discovered some 40 years later.
Some named species of Neofinetia falcata — Shuttenou, for example — have a blush of color in their stems and spurs. What makes Manjushage distinctive, however, is not the color of its spurs but the number of them: instead of one nectary, each flower has three. They are pure white, long, and gracefully curved.
“Possibly the most beautiful flower in the Neo world!” That’s how Dr. Kristen Uthus of New World Orchids describes Manjushage. “Three spurs on white blooms that create an incredible display.” Kristen, who is well-known to OSM members thanks to her frequent visits to the Twin Cities, is one of a handful of vendors in the United States that specialize in Neos.
Another Neo specialist is our own Jason Fischer of Orchids Ltd. A few years ago he showed me a spectacular large Manjushage in bloom at Orchids Ltd., and it was love at first sight. “I’m thinking of dividing it,” he said. “If you do,” I told him, “I’d like to buy a division.”
He did, I did, and I’ve never regretted it. The decision to acquire a Manjushage marked my beginning as a serious collector of Neos. These days I have about forty of them, more than any other orchid genus.
Manjushage — the name translates as “spider lily” — has narrow green leaves without any of the stripes or spots that makes collectors covet other Neo species such as Tenkei Fukurin or Byakko. It does, however, have ruby root tips, which puts it in the most desirable group of Neos in the eyes of collectors who pay attention to those things — which I do.
In recent years there have been attempts to cross Manjushage with other small vandaceous orchids to create a hybrid that adds color without sacrificing the three spurs. I’ve seen photographs of some of the results, but to my mind the colors achieved to date are not especially interesting. I’ll stick to the original Manjushage, thank you, with its glossy white blooms, each adorned with three lovely spurs.
Roy M. Close
OSM’s First Vice President
OSM member since 2015.
Photo Credit : Orchids Limited , https://www.orchidweb.com/orchids/neofinetia/species/neofinetia-falcata-manjushage