and internationally acclaimed taxonomist, Dr. Eric
Christenson, will speak to us about Phalaenopsis
species. Following is his own introduction:
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
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.
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!
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
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."
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 Jackson.email@example.com
plant table will be provided by Dennis Olivas