1. Family: Orchidaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Vanda R.Br.
      1. Vanda coerulea Griff. ex Lindl.

        Vanda coerulea was formally described by John Lindley in 1847 from the description of a blue orchid found in the Khasia Hills of Assam by William Griffiths. It is a striking species with large, flat, vivid blue, long-lasting flowers. It is greatly prized by growers who have used it extensively in breeding to produce deep blue and purple hybrids.

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    The stunning blue vanda is responsible for the dramatic blues and purples seen in many cultivated vanda orchids.

    Vanda coerulea was formally described by John Lindley in 1847 from the description of a blue orchid found in the Khasia Hills of Assam by William Griffiths. It is a striking species with large, flat, vivid blue, long-lasting flowers. It is greatly prized by growers who have used it extensively in breeding to produce deep blue and purple hybrids.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    In the wild, Vanda coerulea grows on exposed deciduous trees (primarily oak) at elevations of 900-1500 m. It has been recorded from India (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland), Nepal, Burma, northern Thailand, and southern China (Yunnan), and is also likely to occur in Bhutan, Laos and Vietnam.

    Description

    The striking blue flowers of Vanda coerulea are its most recognisable characteristic, with blue pigmentation only seen elsewhere in this genus in V. coerulescens , V. tessellata , and V. testacea .

    The leaves are leathery and strap-like and attached to prominent leaf sheaths (part of leaf stalk that covers and rises up from the stem). The flowers are around 13 cm across and notable for their small lip (labellum), approximately 2 cm in length, an unusual characteristic for this genus, shared only with the similarly pigmented, closely related, but much smaller flowered, V. coerulescens .

    The flower spikes of V. coerulea are occasionally branched, and bear more flowers than is usual in this genus (20-30 per plant, on multiple flower spikes). All characteristics plus the species' cold tolerance (due to the elevation of its native habitat) make it highly desirable to orchid hybridisers.

    Pink and white forms also occur in nature - the white forms being the most pure white flowers found in the genus.

    Kew's research into the genus

    The molecular phylogenetic analysis (a DNA-based 'family tree') of the genus Vanda has been the subject of a PhD project at Kew and will form part of the monograph on the genus, to be published shortly. Recent molecular work at Kew has shown that this species is more closely related to another blue vanda, Vanda coerulescens , than to any other Vanda species - a relationship not previously considered.

    Threats and conservation

    A number of factors led to Vanda coerulea being placed on CITES Appendix I in the 1970s. It was considered extremely rare in the wild, having only been recorded in the Khasia Hills of Assam, where it was over-collected and put at further risk by local charcoal production using the oak trees on which it grows.

    Its geographical range is now known to be wider than originally thought, and it is relatively common and widespread in the Himalayan region. Consequently it has recently been removed from CITES Appendix I, although it faces continued threats from illegal wild collection and habitat destruction and the species remains on CITES Appendix II.

    Uses

    Vanda coerulea is a spectacular ornamental and widely used by orchid breeders to produce a range of hybrids. Recent laboratory research indicates that extracts from V. coerulea may have potential use in anti-ageing skin treatments.

    Cultivation

    Growing in the wild at relatively high elevations for this genus, Vanda coerulea is adapted to low night-time temperatures and cannot be easily cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions. It requires high light levels to flower and may flower freely 4-5 times a year in optimal conditions.

    The hybridisation of V. coerulea , particularly with the large-flowered pink and gold Philippines species Vanda sanderiana , formed the basis of modern Vanda breeding, which is extremely important in many countries of South-East Asia and Florida, USA.

    This species at Kew

    Pressed and dried specimens, and specimens preserved in spirit, of Vanda coerulea are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world by appointment. The details of some of these, including images, can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

    Blue vanda seedlings are being grown behind-the-scenes at Kew but are not yet big enough to be put on display or to flower.

    Vanda orchids in Kew's Tropical Extravaganza

    The Tropical Extravaganza festival at Kew always includes a range of spectacular deep purple vandaceous hybrids that have Vanda coerulea in their parentage. The 2012 exhibition, which ran from Saturday 4 February until Sunday 4 March, included an archway comprised of vanda orchids.

    Distribution
    Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand
    Ecology
    Epiphytic (grows above the ground, using other plants or objects for support) on exposed deciduous trees at elevations of 900-1500 m.
    Conservation
    Previously considered to be extremely rare in the wild, this species was, until recently, on CITES Appendix I.
    Hazards

    None known.

    Images

    Distribution

    Native to:

    Assam, Bangladesh, China South-Central, East Himalaya, Myanmar, Thailand

    Common Names

    English
    Blue vanda

    Vanda coerulea Griff. ex Lindl. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
    Jul 1, 1990 Hooker, J.D. [2480], India K000718408
    Jul 1, 1990 Griffith, W. [5189], Bangladesh K000891519
    Jul 1, 1977 Griffith, W. [5787] K000891524
    13956.000
    13957.000
    13958.000
    13960.000
    22174.000
    Griffith, W. [s.n.], India K000895730 Unknown type material

    First published in Edwards's Bot. Reg. 33: t. 30 (1847)

    Accepted by

    • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
    • Wu, Z. & Hong, D. (eds.) (2009). Flora of China 25: 1-570. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.
    • Deb, C.R. & Imchen, T. (2008). Orchid Diversity of Nagaland: 1-288. SciChem Publishing House, Udaipur, India.
    • Lucksom, S.Z. (2007). The orchids of Sikkim and North East Himalaya: 1-984. S.Z.Lucksom, India.
    • Sittisujjatham, S. (2006). Wild Orchid of Thailand 1: 1-495. Amarin.
    • De, A. & Hajra, P.K. (2004). Taxonomic study of the genus Vanda (sensu lato) in India The Journal of the Orchid Society of India 18: 25-40.
    • Govaerts, R. (2003). World Checklist of Monocotyledons Database in ACCESS: 1-71827. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

    Literature

    Kew Species Profiles
    • Bonté, F., Simmler, C., Lobstein, A., Pellicier, F., and Cauchard, J. H. (2011). Action d’un extrait de Vanda coerulea sur la sénescence de fibroblastes cutanés. Annales Pharmaceutiques Françaises 69: 177-181.
    • World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). Vanda coerulea. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Koopowitz, H. (2001). Orchids and their conservation. B.T. Batsford, London.
    • Motes, M. (1997). Vandas: Their botany, history and culture. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
    • Grove, D. L. (1995). Vandas and ascocendas and their combinations with other genera. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
    Kew Backbone Distributions
    • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
    • Wu, Z. & Hong, D. (eds.) (2009). Flora of China 25: 1-570. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.
    Aeridinae: e-monocot.org
    • Lindley, J. 30. Vanda violacea, violet Vanda. Edwards's Botanical Register; or, Flower Garden and Shrubbery. London 33, (1847).

    Sources

    Aeridinae: e-monocot.org
    All Rights Reserved

    Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

    Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
    'The Herbarium Catalogue, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet http://www.kew.org/herbcat [accessed on Day Month Year]'. Please enter the date on which you consulted the system.
    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

    Kew Backbone Distributions
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2019. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2019. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
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