September 2006
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Next Meeting: Thursday 14th September  7:30pm

Dr. Eric ChristensonPhalaenopsis species

Nationally and internationally acclaimed taxonomist, Dr. Eric Christenson, will speak to us about Phalaenopsis species.  Following is his own introduction:

"I spent my first 29 years in Connecticut - 16 in Westport where I was raised and 13 at the University in Storres.  I started growing orchids at age 14 but have had to give up hands-on growing because of my research/lecture schedule (usually +/- 4 months out of each year).  My interest basically went from gardening to wildflower gardening to wild orchids to tropical orchids.  I built a home greenhouse when I was 16. My undergraduate degree was in horticulture and I thought I'd grow up to be a commercial orchid grower. I then went on for a Masters Degree in genetics during which time I had a part-time job in the University's herbarium. I had already had an intense, 2 semester course in tropical taxonomy and found out that not only did I like it, but I was good at it. So, I returned for a Ph.D. in orchid taxonomy working on the genus Aerides but taking into account numerous related genera like Vanda out of necessity.

I haven't kept track of how many orchids I've described.  It sounds pompous but I've been too busy describing them!  With my co-author in Peru we have described something like 150 new species and have an additional 50 in the works.  We described the world 's tallest orchid, Sobralia altissima, which is typically 27 feet tall but has longer stems to 44 feet tall. My studies on Asian vandaceous orchids led to 2 new genera - Dyakia and Taprobanea - named for the aborigines of Borneo and the Greek name for Sri Lanka, respectively - which have stood the test of time to date, as has a saprophytic genus from New Zealand I co-authored (Danhatchia). A Czech botanist honored me by naming a genus endemic to southern Vietnam Christensonia, and the genus has appeared on a Vietnamese postage stamp.  Kind of cool!

Field work has a special excitement, but not for finding new species particularly. Finding and resolving old problematic species actually has a greater intellectual payoff. This also ties in with more than 25 years poking around the world's great museums working with collections by everyone from Cook (his 3rd Voyage of Discovery) to as early as Magellan!  The past few years, working mostly in Cusco, has had a greater thrill of exciting (and being excited by) young Peruvian students. I am forever amazed at what we take for granted and what the orchid community in the US chooses to quibble about. Helping a 20 year old student navigate their first published article - highlighting part of their national heritage - beats finding a new species in the field any day of the week.

Truth be told, these days field work's greatest joy is getting away from the insanity of the US and the tedium of day to day life.  While on the road, wondering how indescribable the next lodging and (or) "toilet" will be in the boonies of Peru, I look out the window of the van and say "cool, that is what chinchillas look like in the wild" or "I wonder if that troop of monkeys will be there on the way back so I can get a better picture."  It beats worrying about talking heads on television, unanswered e-mails, and the other surreal mileposts of life in these here United States.  Listening to a toucan trill puts worrying about the increase in the cable bill into perspective."

Dinner with the speaker will be at Thai Osha, 1968 Contra Costa Blvd. in Pleasant Hill  (tel. 925.825.21448) at 5:30pm.  If you would like to attend please call Eileen Jackson at 707-642-5915 or email

The plant table will be provided by Dennis Olivas 


See photos of the August picnic/auction collage 1 and collage 2

The Diablo View Orchid Society 
Annual Fall Orchid Festival 

Show & Sale

The Diablo View Annual Show and Sale will be on held on 
October 14-15, 2006.  

Orchid Displays, Orchid Sales & Raffles, Plant Doctor,
 Potting & Culture Demonstrations.

Click here to get the fliers, please print and distribute.


 Website of the Month


You can read more about Dr. Eric Christenson's work in Peru at:

Last update 08/30/17 Webmaster, Nick Doe
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