Vanda Miss Joaquim was chosen as Singapore's national flower in 1981. The designation of a national flower was part of an overall effort to foster national pride and identity. Unlike other countries which are forced to settle for national flowers whose distribution extends beyond their national boundaries, Singapore gained the unique distinction of being the only nation to have a hybrid as its national flower and whose distribution was confined to Singapore's boundaries.
The choice of an orchid as Singapore's national flower is most appropriate because orchids have long been identified with Singapore. And no orchid is more worthy of being Singapore's national flower than Vanda Miss Joaquim as it is the oldest and the sole indigenous natural hybrid.
Vanda Miss Joaquim was discovered early one morning in 1893 while Miss Agnes Joaquim was wandering alone in her garden. She stumbled upon a new orchid flower nestled in a clump of bamboo. It was round and full, of a delicate mauve similar to another Vanda but this new plant was flowering out of season. Its features were also different from the other Vandas in her garden. Realising that it could be a new species, Miss Joaquim took it to the Director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens who confirmed that it was indeed a new orchid, unknown to science, a hybrid between Vanda hookerana and Vanda teres. The orchid was then named after her.
FEATURES OF VANDA MISS JOAQUIM
A strong inflorescence of Vanda Miss Joaquim may carry up to 12 buds, usually with four flowers open at a time. Each flower is about 5 cm across and 6 cm tall, and as is the case with its parents, the petals are twisted around so that the back surface faces front. The two petals and the top sepal are rosy-violet, and the lateral sepals are a pale mauve. The lip is very large and broad and the middle lobe extends out loke a fan. It is coloured violet-rose, merging into a contrasting fiery orange at the centre. Over the orange patch, the lip is finely spotted with dark purple. It is free-flowering.
GROWING THE NATIONAL FLOWER
Vanda Miss Joaquim requires full sunlight, free air movement, high humidity and heavy fertilising to achieve optimum growth and flowering. It needs support to grow straight and tall but it flowers only when the top 40-50 cm of its stem rises above the support. It is a robust plant which branches