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Batavia Orchid Society show features hard-to-grow flora

WHEATON – The hundreds of orchids at the Batavia Orchid Society’s annual show displayed a variety of colors and shapes that defied the imagination.

There were large and small orchids, some with speckled petals, sporting hues from pale green and butter yellow to blood-red and hot fuchsia.

Some were smooth-petaled. Others looked like velvet. Some had a pouchlike purse. Others were simple with just three petals.

Their scent suffused the air at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton, where the two-day Chicago Suburban Orchid Show was this weekend.

In addition to the intricate orchid displays, and some offered for sale, orchid society members also volunteered to show how to pot and care for orchids.

Bob Keck of St. Charles and Suki Nax of Naperville demonstrated with live plants and a pile of wood chips.

“If you plant it high, it won’t die,” said Keck, showing how the top of the orchid should be near the top of the pot. “If you plant it low, it won’t grow. If you bury it, you’ve buried it.”

Orchid society member Cheryl Erins said orchid cultivation is an enjoyable hobby and environmentally worthwhile pastime.

“I think this is important because we are showing people that anyone can grow orchids in their homes,” Erins said. “Also, we’re doing a lot to preserve orchids in the wild because the habitats are disappearing very quickly.”

Erins, of Michigan, said she was just in Thailand and Malasia for the World Orchid Conference.

“Our guide told us to see the orchids today because tomorrow they won’t be here,” Erins said. “The poachers get them. They sell them on the black market.”

Many are sold on the black market to escape regulation by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, she said. Known as CITES, it is an international agreement between governments – including the U.S. – to ensure international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

“All of these orchids that come in without special tags on them, those are usually poached in the wild,” Erins said. “It’s really sad.”

Larry Sexton of Batavia, a member of the orchid society and chairman of the show, said this year’s show was judged and featured 435 plants.

Hundreds of orchid aficionados, newbies and the curious came to look at the species.

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