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Age

This is a discussion on Age within the General Orchid Culture forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; Something that has always fascinated me about plants is the fact that given the right ...

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  1. #1
    hcubed's Avatar
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    Default Age

    Something that has always fascinated me about plants is the fact that given the right conditions some plants don't seem to have a built-in "end-date" like most animals do. Just look at any of the larger trees. I love imagining how long they have been there and how they don't seem to have an end in sight (barring storms, etc).


    So.....I was curious how old are your orchids?? What's the oldest that you have or the oldest that someone else you know has??

    Is there a maximum life span for an orchid (assuming ideal conditions)?

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    I don't have any that are very old myself but it is a very interesting topic. For trees I know Pinus longaeva to reach >8000 years. The really big ones seem to be somewhat determinate and rarely top 3000 years. Creosote bushes may top 25,000.

    The oldest orchid in cultivation is probably at Kew - they first recieved orchids in 1818 and I think they have some that are at least 150 years old.

  3. #3
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    8 THOUSAND years?!! That's probably as close as anything gets to being immortal...

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    I agree, they are incredible organisms. They use a very slow growth strategy and may seem all but dead, yet they carry on and on in the harshest of environments:

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    It will be hard to determine the true age of sympodial orchids.
    If we are talking about just the individual pseudobulb, most really just last a few months to a couple of years.
    If we are talking about the entire plant with all its successive generations then we could be talking decades, even centuries probably.

    One has to trace back to the original pseudobulb to determine how old the original plant was. But since we are purchasing mostly divisions and mericlones that will be quite challenging.
    For me, a mericlone starts at age 0 once it is created, but divisions are a whole different thing. When we divide, should we reset the plant's age to 0? or do we retain the age of the original plant?

    For example, the C. Hawaiian Wedding Song 'Virgin' that I received from my mother in law:
    1. It has only been in my care for less than 1 year. I received one large plant and I divided it into almost a dozen plants of different sizes.
    2. The plant was in her care for over 10 years before passing it on to me.
    3. She originally acquired the plant as a mature specimen from another hobbyist who had too many duplicates of that catt so she gave some away.
    I can only guess how long the previous owner was propagating this catt before giving away some of the plants. It probably takes 5 years to grow a small division into a full size specimen.
    And who knows how old the plant was when that owner first acquired it.

    So even though I have had this catt for less than a year, it is not unreasonable to think that this is a continuation of an orchid that dates back 20-30 years or more.

    ~John

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    This really is an interesting topic. So would you measure a sympodial orchid's age by the rhizome instead of the oldest pseudobulb? I should think the same problem would arise trying to age-test either. When you've had divisions, it would be like chopping off a few years worth of the plant...

    I wonder how large a sympodial orchid (like a cattleya) would/could get if it was never divided? I should think 1 plant could easily fill a 50 gallon tank if it were properly cared for... I'd love to know what the biggest one is. How many pseudobulbs, how long is the rhizome, how much space does it take up, how much water does it need and how often...

    Imagine repotting something that's maybe 3 feet around... all those roots...

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    Quote Originally Posted by wetfeet101b View Post
    It will be hard to determine the true age of sympodial orchids.
    If we are talking about just the individual pseudobulb, most really just last a few months to a couple of years.
    If we are talking about the entire plant with all its successive generations then we could be talking decades, even centuries probably.

    One has to trace back to the original pseudobulb to determine how old the original plant was. But since we are purchasing mostly divisions and mericlones that will be quite challenging.
    For me, a mericlone starts at age 0 once it is created, but divisions are a whole different thing. When we divide, should we reset the plant's age to 0? or do we retain the age of the original plant?

    For example, the C. Hawaiian Wedding Song 'Virgin' that I received from my mother in law:
    1. It has only been in my care for less than 1 year. I received one large plant and I divided it into almost a dozen plants of different sizes.
    2. The plant was in her care for over 10 years before passing it on to me.
    3. She originally acquired the plant as a mature specimen from another hobbyist who had too many duplicates of that catt so she gave some away.
    I can only guess how long the previous owner was propagating this catt before giving away some of the plants. It probably takes 5 years to grow a small division into a full size specimen.
    And who knows how old the plant was when that owner first acquired it.

    So even though I have had this catt for less than a year, it is not unreasonable to think that this is a continuation of an orchid that dates back 20-30 years or more.

    ~John
    How long an individual cutting or pseudobulb can survive is going to strongly reflect the conditions it is grown in. I think the more interesting consideration is the age of the mother plant since its inception from a seed (or maybe a mericlone). I have not heard of any sort of biological clock in orchids such that a whole lineage of divisions senesces and dies at nearly the same time, but 150 years is not long enough to rule out the possibility that some strains may eventually lose their vigor permanently, especially since many are moderately slow growers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaydra View Post
    This really is an interesting topic. So would you measure a sympodial orchid's age by the rhizome instead of the oldest pseudobulb? I should think the same problem would arise trying to age-test either.
    That would be tough too. Since the rhizomes develop around the same time the pseudobulbs grow, the oldest rhizome on the plant will probably be just as old as the oldest pseudobulb.
    Once you cut away a division, you will lose track of the donor plant's age unless you keep records of it or something from the time the first plant grew from seed or cloned.

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    wetfeet101b is offline It's not dead! It's just permanently dormant.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mycologist View Post
    I have not heard of any sort of biological clock in orchids such that a whole lineage of divisions senesces and dies at nearly the same time, but 150 years is not long enough to rule out the possibility that some strains may eventually lose their vigor permanently, especially since many are moderately slow growers.
    That would really suck if that is the case.
    Imagine a popular commercial stud orchid that has provided divisions since 50 or more years ago. How many subsequent divisions would have been produced by now from the original stud and the resulting divisions?

    If they all inherit the original plant's "expiration date", we could be talking hundreds if not thousands of plants in a sudden mass die out.

    ~John

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    I believe these are still specimens at Kew that were collected in the 1850s. Maybe Kerry can run out there and verify this for us *wink*.

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