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Beauty and the ‘Bee’

Saturday, May 5, 2012
Jennifer Somai shows off her rare Cedros Bee orchid.


The most beautiful indigenous species of orchids to be found in the wild in Trinidad’s south-west peninsular is the Cedros Bee Orchid (Oncidium lanceanum.) Nearing the end of its flowering season, which runs from October to May, the Cedros Bee offers a showy bloom that blends shades of purple, red, yellow and brown petals. These plants were indigenous to Cedros and could also be found in the Guianas. However, over-harvesting of the species for export makes its extremely difficult to find one in the wild. Most local collectors of orchids carefully guard this rare beauty, but 55-year-old Jennifer Somai, a retiree from south Trinidad has a flowering plant hanging from a mango tree in her unfenced yard.  
She says she is not afraid of anyone stealing it, as people “up on that side” are not in the habit of taking what doesn’t belong to them, despite how valuable it may be. Somai got the plant ten years ago from a relative. She says it’s a pity that the plant is slowly disappearing from its native habitat. The Cedros Bee is an epiphyte with broad leathery bearing tiny red spots. The leaves are more than a foot long. During the flowering season a spike with five to 30 fragrant flowers emerges from the centre of the leaf. The blooms can last for as much as three months.  In his book The Orchids of T&T, Dr Julian Kenny said the problem with the Cedros Bee was that it was generally restricted to the south-western peninsular and its distribution was patchy. Kenny said once the three forest reserves in that area remained intact it should provide an adequate habitat for the plant.­