Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. My Uncle’s Trick or Treat

 

Did you know there’s a beautiful orchid called Trick or Treat? There are several different types, but they mostly have one thing in common: they have the bright Halloween orange. And my first sight of one was at my uncle’s home.

Uncle Al had raised orchids for many years. He had a greenhouse at his home in Massachusetts, but when he moved to Florida, he didn’t require a greenhouse. By the time we followed my aunt and uncle to Florida, he had over 100 orchid plants. And I wanted to have some of my own.

So my uncle became my orchid mentor. He gave me my first couple of plants, and then I went shopping on my own. I decided I would display mine on bamboo benches, which I discovered don’t last forever, but are lovely to use. (We always have a few in reserve for replacement purposes.) Displayed in front of a bamboo lattice we attached to our screenhouse, the benches and blooms created an Asian retreat.

My uncle knew everything about orchids: the time of year they bloomed, how hearty they were, which ones liked sun and those that preferred shade; how to fertilize them, how to re-pot them, how to determine which ones needed watering and which ones didn’t. He had so many plants that there were always blooming plants on his lanai.

Before he died, he was in an assisted living apartment. We made sure his plants were watered; fortunately, he had an automatic watering system for most of them. But we knew we couldn’t take in all his orchids: he had them literally hanging from the roof of his lanai. I asked him about the possibility of notifying friends that we would be giving them away, and they could come on a specific day and take “x” number of plants. (We decided that we’d limit them to five since most of them weren’t orchid growers.) Since I wasn’t giving them away to just anyone, he liked that idea. So for three hours on just one day, we gave away his orchids. I took home about 15 of them. One person even wrote Uncle Al a thank-you note; he loved that gesture. He left this world a few months later.

Over time I’ve lost a few of the plants. He didn’t realize that the plants he was treating for fungus were actually infected by an incurable, infectious virus; they showed their illness through dark spots on the leaves. I had an acquaintance who is an orchid expert and consults to Disney World if he would take a look at the plants; he was kind enough to do it free. That’s when I learned the plants had an incurable virus, but could still live a very long time.

I’ve also learned that as long as the plants are able to drain, they aren’t fussy about how much water they receive; they also retain a lot of water. At this point the lanai has lovely purple flowers; this is their time. Orchids bloom at different times of the year, and their blooming always reminds me of uncle Al.

I haven’t added to my collection; they are like a family blessed by my uncle. I will care for them as a tribute to their beauty, and to my uncle whom I dearly loved.

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There are 17 comments.

  1. Arahant Member

    That’s a beautiful story of family and gifts.

    • #1
    • October 18, 2019, at 6:58 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  2. Aaron Miller Member

    That’s the first I’ve heard of plants contracting a virus. Next you will tell me the prettier orchids have STDs.

    • #2
    • October 18, 2019, at 7:11 AM PST
    • 1 like
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    That’s the first I’ve heard of plants contracting a virus. Next you will tell me the prettier orchids have STDs.

    Thanks for making me laugh, @aaronmiller! Who knew?? When I think of my uncle who knew so much about orchids spraying his orchids with neem oil all those years, and it was a hopeless endeavor, it makes me sad. But at least they die slowly!

    • #3
    • October 18, 2019, at 7:20 AM PST
    • 1 like
  4. The Reticulator Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    That’s the first I’ve heard of plants contracting a virus. Next you will tell me the prettier orchids have STDs.

    “Can plants get STDs? Short answer: Sure, it happens all the time”

    https://www.popsci.com/can-plants-get-stds/

    • #4
    • October 18, 2019, at 7:46 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. Aaron Miller Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    That’s the first I’ve heard of plants contracting a virus. Next you will tell me the prettier orchids have STDs.

    “Can plants get STDs? Short answer: Sure, it happens all the time”

    https://www.popsci.com/can-plants-get-stds/

    I had a “male” tree once. He never picked up after himself.

    • #5
    • October 18, 2019, at 8:13 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  6. Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu Coolidge

    Susan Quinn: My uncle knew everything about orchids: the time of year they bloomed, how hearty they were,

    Great post, Susan.

    Point of information: When speaking of plants, we speak of cold tolerance as hardiness. I think you meant he knew how “hardy” (as in cold tolerant) they were.

    Moadim Le’Simchah (a Sukkot greeting)

    • #6
    • October 18, 2019, at 12:37 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: My uncle knew everything about orchids: the time of year they bloomed, how hearty they were,

    Great post, Susan.

    Point of information: When speaking of plants, we speak of cold tolerance as hardiness. I think you meant he knew how “hardy” (as in cold tolerant) they were.

    Moadim Le’Simchah (a Sukkot greeting)

    Good catch, Yehoshua. I did mean hardy! And Moadim Le’Simchah to you!

    • #7
    • October 18, 2019, at 1:03 PM PST
    • Like
  8. Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu Coolidge

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    That’s the first I’ve heard of plants contracting a virus.

    Here’s a bit of trivia for you. There is something called TMV (tobacco mosaic virus), whose symptom is mottled leaves. It is very common and affects around 40% of all tobacco plants. If you are smoking a cigarette and touch a tomato leaf, the tomato plant can develop the same virus since tobacco and tomato plants are related, both being members of the nightshade family. That’s why smokers are advised to wash their hands before touching tomato or petunia, which is another nightshade family plant that is susceptible to the virus. In 1892, TMV was the first virus — plant or animal — to be discovered.

    • #8
    • October 18, 2019, at 2:10 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Wow. My uncle smoked a pipe years ago. I wonder if he contaminated plants many years ago. Since the plants can be infected and live for a long time, who knows? 

    • #9
    • October 18, 2019, at 2:47 PM PST
    • 1 like
  10. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    This beautiful tale of plants and people is part of October’s theme: “Trick or Treat!

    Do your part to keep it that way! Treat yourself and your friends to a post, nothing tricky about it. Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits. There might be candy.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #10
    • October 18, 2019, at 3:11 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    That’s the first I’ve heard of plants contracting a virus.

    Here’s a bit of trivia for you. There is something called TMV (tobacco mosaic virus), whose symptom is mottled leaves. It is very common and affects around 40% of all tobacco plants. If you are smoking a cigarette and touch a tomato leaf, the tomato plant can develop the same virus since tobacco and tomato plants are related, both being members of the nightshade family. That’s why smokers are advised to wash their hands before touching tomato or petunia, which is another nightshade family plant that is susceptible to the virus. In 1892, TMV was the first virus — plant or animal — to be discovered.

    There is an entire world of stuff that is not quite “life” but constantly adapting and interacting with living things. Beyond viruses, there are those odd things called prions, only relatively recently recognized. If both animals and plants have proteans, do plant-based prions show up in large enough populations? There is a bit of research worrying about prions dangerous to animals being absorbed from the soil by plants, to then be eaten by other animals. Now that would be a nasty trick!

    • #11
    • October 18, 2019, at 3:28 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. Percival Thatcher

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    This beautiful tale of plants and people is part of October’s theme: “Trick or Treat!

    Do your part to keep it that way! Treat yourself and your friends to a post, nothing tricky about it. Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits. There might be candy.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    You just triggered all those anti-candy corn zealots out there. I swear they are worse than vegans.

    • #12
    • October 18, 2019, at 3:32 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. Aaron Miller Member

    Y’all need to let this conversation sink below attention before that image makes me buy a bag of candy corn.

    • #13
    • October 21, 2019, at 6:05 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  14. Arahant Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Y’all need to let this conversation sink below attention before that image makes me buy a bag of candy corn.

    You say you want candy corn?

    • #14
    • October 21, 2019, at 6:48 AM PST
    • 1 like
  15. Aaron Miller Member

    That picture needs something for scale. That could be an ash tray or it could be a bucket. If the latter, I’d prefer rope-sized Twizzlers.

    • #15
    • October 21, 2019, at 8:29 AM PST
    • 1 like
  16. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    That picture needs something for scale. That could be an ash tray or it could be a bucket. If the latter, I’d prefer rope-sized Twizzlers.

    Sprouts has a bulk barrel for candy corn, and another for a Mellowcream pumpkin and candy corn mix.

    • #16
    • October 21, 2019, at 7:08 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    That picture needs something for scale. That could be an ash tray or it could be a bucket. If the latter, I’d prefer rope-sized Twizzlers.

    Sprouts has a bulk barrel for candy corn, and another for a Mellowcream pumpkin and candy corn mix.

    I knew there was a conniving side of you!

    • #17
    • October 22, 2019, at 5:54 AM PST
    • 1 like