In a sense, contrary to what is customary to believe, orchids are not something uncommon. They are found all over the planet, except in the Antarctic, and seen as a group they are perhaps the largest family in the world among plants with flowers. The only other group that can rival orchids in diversity is that of the weeds, which no one dreams of considering as something rare.
How many species of orchids are there? Since Linnaeus' time, just over 58,000 have been described, but botanists have only recently agreed (more or less) to review the list and clean it of duplicates, reaching a consensus of about 28,000 species. I, who live and study the orchids of the American wet tropics, where they are more abundant, know that there are still a few thousand missing, and a conservative figure of 30-35 thousand species of orchids is very plausible.
In the midst of such an exorbitant variety of forms, it would seem difficult for one to have its own "favorite orchid", but I have one: the beautiful and modest Phalaenopsis violacea.
Phalaenopsis violacea is not the most showy of orchids and certainly, compared to the most bizarre creatures in its family, not even an extravagant species. Its flowers, although not small for the average of orchids, are far from the extra-large sizes of some of the most celebrated species, and are not even produced in large clusters as is the case with the varieties that have the greatest success among growers.
But those colors ... I find it wonderful the improbable combination of the most vivid magenta with the almost acid green where the tips of the tepals end, and between the two that white which on one side is a pale purple, on the other a very pale green ... or is it rather pale pink? The broad, shiny, wavy, pendulous leaves, and the robust inflorescences of a few flowers that place the flowers just above the lush foliage, all conspire to evoke me the imagine of the warm, shady and mysterious jungles of Malaysia from which this species originates...
And the scent ... The flowers of Phalaenopsis violacea have one of the most intense and pleasant scents that I know of! Would you have a plant of Phalaenopsis violaceaa with one or two flowers in your studio, in a few minutes the atmosphere will be impregnated with its aroma. It is a sweet rosy-floral fragrance mixed with berries, with an additional blend of spicy cinnamon. Scientifically speaking, it is mostly composed by elemicyne (55%) and alcohol cinnamylic (27%). While the latter is responsible for the sweet scent of hyacinth and lily of the valley, the elemicin adds the spicy, cinnamon or saffron-like element. No surprise the elemicin oil is being researched for its potential psychoactive effects…
I drew my Phalaenopsis violacea, using photographs of a blooming from a couple of years ago, with the Montblanc Meisterstück 149 Calligraphy. The beautiful stroke variation of the Calligraphy nib, from extra-fine to broad, is ideal for the type of “China ink" drawing that I had in mind. I used, for the first time, the paper of a Moleskine notebook of the Art Collection series, the Watercolor Notebook, a 200 g/m2 paper that in theory should well withstand the action of the brush soaked in water. For the use with fountain pen ink, it is superb! Here I used Montblanc's Black Permanent, a very black ink. I colored the flowers with old Caran D’Ache Prsimalo Aquarelle pencils, which I have owned for forty years.