Blue pigmentation is rare in flowers, and rarer still in the Orchid family. Two species of blue orchids have been discovered, however. The blue vanda (Vanda coerulea) is native to the northeastern Indian state of Assam, while the blue dendrobium (Dendrobium victoriae-reginae) originates in the mountainous highlands of the Philippines. These elusive beauties are rich in symbolic meaning.
The Symbolic Meaning of Orchids
The name orchid is derived from the Greek word for "testicle." In the ancient Mediterranean these delicate blooms were associated with sexuality, fertility and virility. Similarly, in China the orchid was thought to represent an abundance of offspring. Although Western Europe experienced a veritable orchid craze during the late 19th century, the flower was almost never portrayed in art, aside from scientific illustrations. This was due to its symbolic association with sexuality, a subject contrary to prim Victorian social mores.
The Symbolic Meaning of the Color Blue
Blue, often the colour of the sky and sea, may have a variety of symbolic connotations. It may represent sadness and melancholy. It has also been associated with relaxation, calmness and even aloofness. In the Western world, the colour blue is representative of the male gender, a connection that also correlates with the ancient root of the name orchid.
The Fable of the Blue Vanda
The blue vanda orchid grows on trees in the mountainous foothills of northern India. In 1837, Dr. William Griffith became the first Westerner to encounter the blue vanda. With his discovery, wave after wave of Europeans and Americans poured into the remote regions in which the blue orchid was found. It was collected to near extinction. Most of the blue vandas transported to the West died, as their collectors assumed that they thrived only in hot and steamy conditions, when in fact they also need some cold air at night. If this story assigns some symbolic meaning to the blue orchid, it may be that of covetous greed for something precious and unattainable.