One of the orchids on display at the exhibition.

KUCHING: It is a great shame when an item which holds historical or sentimental value is lost due to neglect or other circumstances – and the same goes for heritage hybrid orchids.

“Heritage orchids are those that are valued and have been passed down over the years,” first vice-president of the Orchid Society of South East Asia (Ossea) Dr John Elliott explained during his lecture titled “The Need to Conserve Hybrid Orchids” on July 25, part of the 13th Asia Pacific Orchid Conference’s (Apoc13) at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here.

Hailing from Singapore, Dr Elliott provided numerous examples of heritage hybrid orchids from the country which had been lost in order to drive home his point that they should have been conserved due to their significance in history.

According to him, there are an estimated 170,000 registered hybrid orchids, and he estimated that about 80 per cent of them had become extinct.

Dr John Elliott

Citing three factors that threatened hybrid orchids, he said, “The first thing is neglect. The labels (used to identify the hybrids) become illegible or the orchid collections die off with the demise of their owners,” elaborated Dr Elliott.

“The second factor is disease. Viruses, fungi, bacteria and pests become mortal threats, especially to neglected collections.

“I feel the main killer is resource provision. If nobody grows them and makes them available and if breeders refuse to share their plants, then the collections will die off. This is a very pervasive problem.”

Dr Elliott believed that not all hybrid orchids had to be preserved.

So what make an orchid worthy of being deemed “heritage”?

“If an orchid is chosen as a national flower, then it should be considered heritage,” said Dr Elliott.

One of the orchids on display at the exhibition.

He also felt the title of ‘heritage’ should cover orchids that have been commemorated in the form of stamps and coins or bank notes, giving the example of Aranda majula which is depicted on the S$10,000 note, the particular orchid being a very apt choice due to ‘majulah’ meaning “prosper”.

According to Dr Elliott, heritage orchids should also encompass those that have garnered fame overseas or marked a breakthrough in breeding or hybridisation.

According to him, if new colours have been produced or they have won awards, the orchids should be counted as ‘heritage’.

An orchid species on display at the exhibition.

Dr Elliott said an orchid could be classified as a heritage orchid if it had been named after renowned people or institutions like, for example, Sealara Nelson Mandela and Papilionanda Anglo-Chinese School.

While the word ‘heritage’ may indicate that the orchid must be of a ripe age, occasionally exceptions should be made. For instance, Aranda Lee Kuan Yew, which is named after the former Prime Minister of Singapore, is a fairly recent flower being only three years old, but it is clear that it will become a heritage hybrid orchid in the future and must therefore be preserved well, said Dr Elliott.

“Orchids need to be valued for what they were in the past as well as what they are now. Hybrid orchids, especially heritage ones, should be conserved as much as orchid species,” he stressed.

One of the orchid landscape displays.