Wed, Jan 09, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Mentor sows love of foxtail orchids

By Chiu Chih-jou and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Orchid association head Kung Tai-wen on Monday displays foxtail orchids grown by students under his guidance at North Pingtung Community University as the flowering season approaches in Pingtung County’s Jiouru Township.

Photo: Chiu Chih-jou, Taipei Times

Foxtail orchids can be used for decorative purposes and in skincare products, Kung Tai-wen (龔泰文), director of a Pingtung-based orchid association, said on Monday.

Kung, who advises the orchid and vanilla research club at North Pingtung Community University, said that he has over the past 18 years helped about 300 students develop an interest in growing non-toxic foxtail orchids.

The students are growing about 1,500 orchids in a greenhouse, where they use natural fertilizers and biological pest control methods, he said.

They harvest 30kg to 40kg of orchids per year on average, he added.

Foxtail orchids, , or Rhynchostylis retusa, which bloom around the Lunar New Year holiday, are not commonly sold in markets, but they leave a lasting impression, he said.

They have many flowers and a rich fragrance, but they take more than five years to bloom and often die from disease, he said.

Compared with moth orchids and other species that are commercially available, foxtail orchids cost more to grow, which is why people do not bother, or give up halfway, he said.

Over the past few years, orchid exports have flourished, with producers in the Netherlands and Southeast Asia increasing their market share, he said.

Taiwan must promote orchids for many occasions if it wants to become an “orchid empire,” he added.

Kung said he and his students are working with a biotechnology company to develop beauty and skincare products made from the plants.

They have already extracted polysaccharides from the orchids and used them to make soaps, shampoo, body wash, face masks, lotions and other products, he said.

They hope to increase production so that the prices stay affordable, he added.

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