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Chester County Press

Longwood spotlights the beauty of exotic orchids

01/22/2016 12:38PM ● By J. Chambless

An orchid archway is part of the Orchid Extravaganza, running through March 27 at Longwood Gardens.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Every winter, just when we need it most, Longwood Gardens spotlights glorious orchids in full bloom during the Orchid Extravaganza. The show is slated to openĀ on Jan. 23 and will continue through March 27.

This year's exhibition is being called Longwood's biggest ever. There is a towering, 12-foot-tall orchid archway, a beautiful orchid curtain, and hundreds of Vanda orchids displayed in the Silver Garden.

Orchids were one of the first collections at Longwood, and they have been a favorite of visitors since 1922. All year long, Longwood horticulturists work with more than 6,000 specimens that reflect the global diversity of size, display and colors. Longwood's orchids come from Central and South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Himalayan and Andes mountains, and the Caribbean and South Pacific Islands.

Orchids can range in size from less than half an inch to more than 7 inches, and have one bloom to over 50 blooms in an endless variety of shapes. Orchids fall into three groups: epiphytes, terrestrials, and lithophytes. Epiphytes live in trees, with their roots in the air. They take the nutrients and moisture they need from air, rain and debris. Most cultivated orchids are epiphytes. Terrestrials grow with their roots in the ground and get their nutrients and moisture there. Most U.S. native orchids are terrestrials. Lithophytes are epiphytes that have adapted to living on rock surfaces so that they can receive more sunlight.

During OrKID Days at Longwood, on Feb. 25 and March 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., families can explore orchids at hands-on stations and take part in other creative activities inside the four-acre Conservatory. There will be orchid drawing demonstrations by professional illustrators, storytelling, puppet shows and games, and studying of orchid roots, shoots and flowers at Longwood's discovery station for young visitors.

The Orchid Extravaganza and OrKID Days are included in Gardens general admission of $20 for adults, $17 for seniors, $10 for students (ages 5 to 18 or any age with student ID), and free for children ages 4 and younger. Tickets are available online at, in person in the Visitor Center, or by calling 610-388-1000.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].