Singapore’s National Flower: What is it, and should it be changed?
You see these flowers blooming all year round in Singapore. For decades, this variety is found in most of the botanical gardens in Singapore. There are also notable attractions dedicated to the hybrid flower located around the country including a park and several roads.
The orchid variety is a plant that bears up to 12 buds a time with often four flowers in full bloom. It craves the sunshine, which makes Singapore a suitable place for this flower variety to thrive.
The colors of the flower are distinct and well-blended, a mix of rose violet, pale mauve, a fiery orange, and a dark purple center. It is known as Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ or sometimes incorrectly called the Vanda ‘Miss Agnes Joaquim.’
The confusion is partly right as Miss Agnes Joaquim is the breeder to whom the national flower is named after. It is also sometimes simply referred to as the Agnes orchid. It is also significant to note that the maternal grandfather of the Armenian Horticulturalist Miss Agnes Joaquim is Isaiah Zachariah, one of the pioneer members of Singapore’s Chamber of Commerce.
When Was It Declared as Singapore’s National Flower?
Vanda Miss Joaquim has been the national flower of Singapore for decades. It was known as the botanical representative of the nation on April 15, 1981. Proclaiming a national flower was part of the national effort to boost Singaporean pride and identity.
Henry Ridley, the first director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens named the orchid after the Armenian horticulturalist who bred the hybrid flower from the Malayan Vanda hookeriana and the Burmese Vanda teres species.
However, research has shown that these species actually fall in the Papilionanthe genus. Hence, the hybrid flower’s parent species are now the Papilionanthe hookeriana and the Papilionanthe teres species.
The scientific name of the Singapore national flower should now be Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim. However, it is still widely known as Vanda Miss Joaquim.
Was It Bred or Naturally Discovered?
Some believe that the flower was a natural hybrid and that the horticulturalist discovered it in a bamboo plant in her garden back in 1893. In 1899, it won first prize as the rarest orchid in the annual flower show.
Still others say that Agnes Joaquim was an experienced horticulturalist who was able to create the hybrid flower. It is important to note that the Sander’s Complete List of Orchid Hybrids listed Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ orchid as an artificial hybrid, confirming this theory.
Henry Ridley himself examined the hybrid flower and wrote to the Gardeners’ Chronicles referring to Miss Agnes Joaquim as a woman well-known for her success as a horticulturist. He acknowledged Miss Joaquim as the horticulturalist who succeeded in crossing the two plants cultivated in Singapore to create the hybrid flower.
The Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid is the first registered plant hybrid coming from Singapore.
Why was it Chosen as Singapore’s National Flower?
Singapore is the sole country that named a hybrid flower as its national country.
Initially, there were 30 orchids vying for the spot of the country’s national flower. 10 other flowers came from other varieties. Many consider an orchid suitable to represent the country because orchids have always been associated with Singapore.
The main selling points of the Vanda Miss Joaquim is its resilience, vibrant-colored petals, and its hardiness. It was thought to be reflective of the character of Singaporeans at the time. Singapore has always been known as a country where different ethnicities come together and live in harmony. Thus, Vanda Miss Joaquim was thought to be the right flower to represent the uniqueness of Singapore.
In modern times, Vanda Miss Joaquim orchids are no longer limited to Singapore. Cuttings of the hybrid orchid made it available for express flower delivery in other Asian countries like Malaysia and the Philippines as well as in Hawaii, and other tropical countries where its needs are met.
Thoughts on Changing Singapore’s National Flower
Today, Singapore is known more than as a country that celebrates diversity. It is well-known as a country of innovation. As one of the most advanced countries in the world, some of the top health facilities, corporate headquarters, and professionals are found in Singapore.
Everyday Singaporeans are inspired to be more innovative. Modern Singaporeans are not just resilient, but also known to be extremely competitive in nature. Foreigners who work, study, or live in Singapore notice a culture of greed and selfishness, in particular in the corporate world. Material possessions dictate one’s social standing in Singapore and are used to determine the ones who have made it to the top.
Singaporeans are not just competitive, but passionate as well. Singapore attracts passionate people from all over the world bringing their creativity and love for what they do here.
While the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid is generally accepted among Singaporeans to represent the country, it is thought that a better representation of the country may replace the flower of resilience, hardiness, and vibrant colors.
In the changing times, Singapore has adopted new values that the Vanda Miss Joaquim fails to represent. Do you think that Singapore should continue to use an orchid that is available at your local flower delivery? What flower do you think best represents Singapore as it is today?