Oil on Canvas, 48" x 72", 2020
Orchid: Renanthera imschootiana
Native Range: Northeast India, Myanmar, and Extreme Southeast China
Conservation Status: Threatened due to over-collection for horticulture
“A riotous profusion of long scrambling stems gives rise to short rhythmic leaves and march up the trees that support them. In an explosion of ruby color, the Red Vanda orchid as it is commonly called, bursts into as many as 20-30 majestic blooms.
Like radiant ruby gemstones, this orchid’s inherent beauty has resonated within the human heart, almost to the point of its extinction.
But what powerhouse fuels this magnificent inflorescence? Hidden deep from view, a tiny silent partner resides, namely mycorrhizal fungi.
My concept of “fungus” morphed when I learned about the essential connection between plants and microbes.
At the core of an ancient reciprocal relationship, these fungi have been around for an estimated 400 million years making the survival of nearly 90% of the world’s land plants and trees possible.
Think about a world without the visual beauty of orchids, the comfort of a shady tree, blueberries in your cereal or a glass of fine wine.
Mycorrhizal fungi are integral to the symbiotic relationships that give us these pleasures. The fungi provide the plant’s roots, and in the case of the orchid, it’s seeds, with vital water and nutrients. In return, plants provide fungi with needed sugars and food.
But most importantly beyond the creature comforts of humans, simply put, all animal life on earth would not be possible without plants and the fungi that nourish them.