The first day of spring is just a few days away. It’s finally time to wash away the gloom of winter with some spring color. While you’re in the market for some beautiful blossoms this season, I highly suggest one of Haiti’s most elegant exports: the Cattleya orchid.
While Haiti’s nurseries grow many types of orchids, including the more common Lady Slippers and Cymbidiums, Cattleyas are their main orchid export. Cattleyas are hard to find and expensive to procure due to their meticulous growing methods and short lifespan. Often called the “Queen of Orchids” these rare flowers are highly sought after for their unique pastel coloring, lovely scent and frilled edges. Interestingly, while most commercial cattleyas are grown in soil and carefully tended, this colorful orchid is natively an ephiphyte. It is a perennial that can thrive growing up the side of a tree, rooting in bark or even rocks.
Haiti’s micro-climates are to thank both for the island’s incredibly high biodiversity and for allowing it’s nursery workers to grow these rarer orchids year-round. At certain elevations the temperature changes so little, that it is essentially always springtime in the orchid nurseries. When it comes time to export these delicate blooms, they are carefully cut, lovingly packaged and loaded onto airplanes to be flown to places like the U.S. There the flowers are fashioned into extravagant bouquets and elegant wreaths and sold at luxury prices.
Orchids aren’t the only flowers that thrive on Haitian soil. The Hibiscus, known as choublak or woz kayèn in Haitian Creole, is another beloved bloom of the island nation.
Aside from being a beautiful, vibrantly colored flower, the Hibiscus has many practical uses. As part of the “mallow”, or malvaceae, family (in fact, its name is taken directly from the Greek word for “mallow»: hibiskos) this tropical plant is entirely edible. Very high in antioxidants and vitamin C, the Hibiscus’ wide array of uses range from moisturizing hair treatments to soothing toothaches and other inflammation. The taste of its petals has been described as tart and “almost cranberry-like” and is a popular additive to cold drinks, teas and jams. Humans aren’t the only beings drawn to this funneled flora, Hibiscus bushes also regularly attract hummingbirds and many varieties of butterflies. It’s no surprise that it’s incredible usefulness and vibrant beauty has earned the Hibiscus the honor of being Haiti’s unofficial national flower.
So, if you are shopping for some spring color, you absolutely cannot go wrong with a bouquet of either of these Haitian blooms. Grown with love and care in a country that has faced numerous hardships, and still manages to produce endless beauty.
Marleen is a Haitian Creole translator and Language Advocate. After completing her Graduate Studies at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (SciencesPo), she decided to launch Creole Solutions to focus on her mission to promote Haitian language and culture. She worked for the Consulate General of Haiti in Chicago and the United Nations Environment Program in Haiti.
Marleen se yon tradiktris k ap travay pou defann dwa lang. Apre li te fini ak etid siperyè li nan Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (SciencesPo), Marleen te deside lanse Creole Solutions pou konsantre sou misyon li pou voye lang ak kilti lakay monte. Avan sa li te travay pou Konsila Jeneral Ayiti nan Chikago ak Pwogram Nasyonzini pou Anviwònman an Ayiti.