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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Orchids for UK charity auction

The Cayman Islands’ horticultural excellence is being given a huge public and media boost in the UK during the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show in London this month. Not only will thousands of visitors, including Her Majesty the Queen, be able to appreciate a replica of the Heritage Garden in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park from 19 to 24 May, but two of the floral exhibits, the Wild Banana Orchid and the Cayman Ghost Orchid, are being auctioned off for charity, with the Blue Iguana Recovery Fund named as one of the beneficiaries.

This is a debut appearance for the Cayman Islands at the Chelsea Flower Show, and it is, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, the first time that two of the Islands’ three endemic orchids have been on display in the UK. It is believed that the Ghost Orchid has never been seen on British soil before.

After the show, the orchids, which have been described by a British horticulturalist as ‘priceless to a collector’, will be auctioned off to the highest bidder through the on-line charity auction site. Proceeds are to be split between two charities the Blue Iguana Recovery Fund, and Make-A-Wish Foundation UK, the UK’s leading wish-granting charity for children and young people fighting life-threatening illnesses.

Andrew Guthrie of the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park said: ‘It is next to impossible to place a value on the orchids to a British collector as they are not commercially available; however predictions from professionals in the British horticultural industry predict that together, to a collector, they could be worth up to £50,000. Trade regulations prohibit taking wild orchids away from the Cayman Islands, so this really is the only chance for anyone in the UK with a passion for orchids to add them to their collection.’

To ensure the orchids’ ongoing welfare, the Department of Tourism will purchase membership to the Orchid Society of Great Britain for the highest bidder, and the Society has promised to throw in a free day’s training on orchid care.

The Wild Banana Orchid (Myrmecophila thomsoniana) was chosen as the National Flower by the people of the Cayman Islands on Earth Day in 1996. Like the Ghost Orchid, it is endemic to The Cayman Islands, meaning that it grows nowhere else in the world. The orchid gets its ‘common name’ from the large green or yellow banana shaped pseudobulbs at the base of the plant.

The rarer of the two plants, the Ghost Orchid (Dendrophylax fawcettii), is native only to Grand Cayman and should not be mixed up with a similarly named, more commonly known, but extremely rare, orchid that grows in Florida. The Ghost Orchid is an epiphytic plant that consists of grayish-green roots from which beautiful creamy white flowers emerge in May and June. The orchid is devoid of leaves and when in flower, emits a delightful fragrance that attracts moths to pollinate in the late evenings.

Make-A-Wish Foundation UK is currently celebrating its 21st anniversary year. Since 1986 Make-A-Wish has granted over 4,800 wishes and aims to grant its 5,000th wish by the end of the anniversary year in June 2008.

“We are honoured to be one of the two charity beneficiaries of this auction of these rare and beautiful orchids. This is a wonderful gift to Make-A-Wish and will help us to grant more magical wishes to children living with life-threatening illnesses,” said Karen England, Director of Fundraising, Make-A-Wish Foundation UK.