Vanilla claviculata (Orchidaceae) 


      Leafless vanilla is a climbing orchid native to the Greater Antilles.  It has small leaves that are quickly shed, leaving the bare stem.  It clings to trees, shrubs and rocks by its aerial roots, climbing to 50 feet or more.  Of the more than 35,000 species of orchids known, vanilla is the only member of its family which is used commercially as a food product.  Vanilla flowers from May through August.  There are two color forms of Vanilla claviculata, a white-lipped form, and a form with a purple border to the lip (shown).  Although the fruits can be used to make vanilla flavoring, the quality is not as good as Vanilla planifolia.  Vanilla grows best in a well drained mix with an added support for climbing.  It should be in about 50% shade, and kept moist but not wet.


Purple-lipped form of Vanilla claviculata



Flowers and thick fruits of Vanilla claviculata






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