The Orchid Collection at the Muttart
Did you know one the top ten orchid collections in North America is right here in Edmonton?
Can I tell you more?
The Orchid Species Preservation Foundation (OSPF) is a non-profit, charitable, volunteer foundation that has been in partnership with City of Edmonton since 1991. We own and co-manage with the Muttart staff the orchid collection housed at the Muttart Conservatory. The collection holds approximately 4,500 plants representing 170 genera and 1200 species of orchids from around the globe.
The collection is kept in a purpose built orchid greenhouse at the back of the Muttart Conservatory highlighted in yellow in the picture opposite. It was built by the OSPF and Muttart and was officially opened in 2004. It is off limits to the general public and as such only a fraction of the plants are on display in the tropical and temperate pyramids on any given day. The collection has grown through generous donations of plants by many orchid growers and by purchasing new species at orchid shows.
Some flowers are very large, but many are miniscule often the size of your pinkie fingernail or even smaller.
The OSPF also has an Orchid Resource Centre located at 4457 99th Street that houses our propagation facility where we grow orchids from seeds, our library, office, demonstration area for talks and potting session and workshop for building displays and promotional materials.
In addition to caring for the orchids at the Muttart, the OSPF also uses the collection to educate our youth. In schools, the OSPF takes examples of orchids into the class and gives talks tailored to the grade level and requests from the teachers. We have engaged students from grade 4 to grade 12 in art as well as science classes. We allow the students to touch the plants, smell them and even dissect some the main parts of the plant to see how they work. The students invariably go home with a orchid that they have potted.
At the University level, we have partnered with MacEwan University on several projects. One was taking advantage of our unique collection of Masdevallia and Dracula orchids to extract DNA and search the DNA structure for a sequence that can be used to positively identify a species when not in bloom.
We have also expanded this partnership to include the Wagner Natural Area Society, the Foundation for Orchid Research and Conservation and the Smithsonian’s North American Orchid Conservation Centre to investigate Canada’s native orchids and explore if we can successfully propagate and grow our native species in the lab and then transplant them back into the wild.
Yes, Alberta has 28 native orchids and some like the yellow lady slipper you can grow in your garden. They are available in the local garden centres or speciality native orchid growers like Shawn Hillis in Calgary (www.gardenslippers.com)
PLEASE DO NOT take them from the wild.
Other ways the OSPF tries to make the collection more accessible to the public is by attending orchid shows and also putting on our own orchid exhibit in the fall. Orchid Shows tend to be focus on flower judging and awards and our orchid exhibit tends to focus on showing the diversity of the orchids and engaging our youth with the hope of igniting a passion for these unusual plants.
We also like to tour parties around the collection. In past we have tour school groups, university groups, orchid judges, president of the American Orchid Society, senior’s groups. During the summer on the second Wednesday of the month, the OSPF gives an orchid related talk as part of the Muttart’s Adult Only Evenings. The talk is then followed by a tour of the orchid greenhouse.
If you would like to know more about the OSPF and the orchid collection or explore volunteer opportunities, would like us to come and talk to your group or school or arrange for your group to tour the collection. Please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you prefer mail our office address is 4457 99th Street NW Edmonton, Alberta, T6E 5B6
Dave Nixon - President OSPF