In 1981, a national committee was formed by Singapore’s Ministry of Culture to choose a national flower as part of the effort to foster national pride and identity. The committee shortlisted over 40 types of flowers, which included 30 orchids and Vanda Miss Joaquim was chosen as the National Flower for its "resilience and year-round blooming quality". A cross between two different orchid species, Vanda hookeriana and Vanda teres, this beautiful multi-coloured orchid is named in honour of Miss Agnes Joaquim, a Singaporean, who bred the orchid in her garden around 1890.
Subsequent taxonomic research has reclassified both parent species and their hybrids, including Vanda Miss Joaquim, into the genus Papilionanthe. Hence, the current correct name is Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim, although Vanda Miss Joaquim continues to be used as a common name, as it is in this article. Vanda Miss Joaquim was recorded as Singapore’s first orchid hybrid as well as the world’s first vanda hybrid.
Papilionanthe is derived from Latin term ‘papilio’ which means butterfly and ‘anthe’ which means flower alluding to the attractive, butterfly-like flowers of this eleven species orchid genus. Their native ranges stretch across tropical South and Southeast Asia, from Sri Lanka to Indonesia. The genus is characterized by their pencil-shaped (terete) leaves, thin stems, and vine-like growth habit, with a single growing stalk (monopodial). All species produce large, showy flowers in shades of pink, purple, and white.
Vanda Miss Joaquim is popular among gardeners and orchid enthusiasts due to the attractive flowers which can bloom year round under the right conditions: full sun and high humidity with frequent fertilising. It is propagated by stem cuttings and thrives in a media mixture of bark and organic matter. Flowering at a height of over 1m, it needs to be tied to stakes for support.
Did you know that Singapore is the only country in the world to have a hybrid orchid as its national flower?
Celebrate National Day by coming to see Vanda Miss Joaquim, and other amazing orchids at Pocket Gardens Surprise in Flower Dome!
Written by: Arthur Voo, Senior Research Executive (Research and Horticulture)
Arthur has been working closely with plants for more than 10 years, whether in a park, nature reserve or glasshouse. These days, if he isn’t taking care of plants in the glasshouses, he likes to spend his time hiking and looking for interesting plants in the wild.