Today’s Editorial for January 22: Cayman orchids in captivity

Perhaps it is a flora variation of the Stockholm Syndrome, the psychological response whereby hostages show signs of loyalty to their abductors.

Whatever the case, it seems our Wild Banana Orchids and Ghost Orchids abducted last May on their way to the Chelsea Flower Show by surly Dutch bureaucrats, have taken to their captors. We are told they are actually flowering.

The fact that the Wild Banana Orchid is the Cayman Islands National Flower and its abduction could have led to a messy international incident did not dissuade the ill-humoured Dutch customs officers from confiscating the orchids – worth an estimated $80,000 – for having what amounted to an improper visa.

Apparently diplomatic negotiations failed, and now the Dutch judiciary has sentenced the orchids to life imprisonment in a botanical garden in Holland. There will thus be no more soft, fresh breezes; no more living in the shade of verdant trees so fair; no more Homeland, fair Cayman Isle, for these eight orchids.

More importantly, they will not be of any help to their endangered compatriots, the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana. The original plan was for the orchids to be donated to Kew Garden, where they would be auctioned to a sponsor and the proceeds sent to the Blue Iguana Recovery Fund. The orchids would have never returned home in any case, but at least they would have left their Homeland for a noble cause.

But it is possible the Dutch could be of great service to the Ghost Orchid. Try as it might over the years, the Cayman Islands Orchid Society has been unable to propagate seeds from this endangered species. For some reason, the plant seems sterile and no one knows why.

If seeds could be produced from the Ghost Orchid, it would help ensure the survival of this precious Caymanian plant species.

The Dutch, who have a reputation as talented horticulturalists, might be able figure out how to get them to propagate seeds. If they are successful and pass on their knowledge to us, we might end up owing the Dutch a debt of gratitude – despite their heartless customs officials.

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