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Subfamily: Epidendroideae Tribe: Vandeae SubTribe: Aeridinae Genus: Papilionanthe Species: Papilionanthe hookeriana Common Name: Hooker's Papilionanthe {English botanist in the 1800s.}

#201003-09

A visit to Kuala Lumpur cannot be called complete if an excursion has not been made to The Secret Garden on the rooftop of the 1 Utama Shopping Centre at Petaling Jaya, not far from the city centre. The brain-child of businessman Teo Chiang Kok and renowned botanist Francis Ng, the Secret Garden occupies about 30,000 square feet on top of the 7th storey of the shopping centre. In it are grown some 500 species of unusual plants from all over the world. Of course, there's an emphasis on tropicals from Malaysia.

Here's pretty Papilionanthe hookeriana once called the Kinta Weed because it was so very prolific in the Kinta Valley of Perak through which moves the Brown and Muddy Kinta on whose shores lies the fine town of Ipoh. It's become very rare there, indeed, and is now listed among the endangered plants of Malaysia. But Dr Ng grows it wonderfully in 'his' rooftop garden.

The first description of our Orchid was by Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach (1824-1889). He analysed it on the basis of an exemplar from Borneo, and called it Vanda hookeriana in honor of the great English botanist William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865). Famous expert on Orchids, Friedrich Richard Rudolph Schlechter (1872-1925) 'cleaned up' much orchid nomenclature. He renamed Reichenbach's Vanda to Papilionanthe, using that name because the flower reminded him of a gliding butterfly. Though Reichenbach had not seen his Vanda in the wild, Schlechter had collected widely in Southeast Asia and could write from experience.

Incidentally, his enormous herbarium was destroyed by an Allied bombing raid on Berlin in the last throes of World War II. No gliding, beautiful butterflies, those planes...