Now Blooming: Vanilla

Julie McCaffrey —  May 12, 2016 — 4 Comments

Attention orchid fans: our vanilla orchid is blooming in the Tropical Greenhouse at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It’s a rare occurrence in the wild—and in a greenhouse. Wade Wheatley, assistant horticulturist, seized the moment to hand-pollinate the flower. 

Vanilla planifolia before pollination

Vanilla planifolia before pollination

Why hand pollinate? In hopes of producing a vanilla bean. Yes, the fruit of a vanilla orchid is used to make pure vanilla extract, which flavors many foods we enjoy.

Vanilla vines typically begin to flower at five years or older. Flowers are produced in clusters, with one flower opening each day in the morning. Stop by the Tropical Greenhouse soon to see what’s in bloom. 

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and

Julie McCaffrey


Julie McCaffrey is media relations manager at the Chicago Botanic Garden and is responsible for promoting the Garden's programs and events through traditional and social media. Julie holds a B.A. in English from Northern Illinois University and an M.S. in Communications from Northwestern University.

4 responses to Now Blooming: Vanilla

  1. “It’s a rare occurrence in the wild”? Then now do we ever get vanilla???
    I know it often has to be hand pollinated in the wild, but it does bloom in the wild or we would have no vanilla. Correct?

  2. Joanna Wozniak May 13, 2016 at 10:07 am

    No signs in the greenhouse, went there yesterday to see it and did not find it. The vanlla plant ( the variegated one) had a bud on but no flower. Information desk had no idea on where it could be. So how do I find it?

    • Julie McCaffrey May 13, 2016 at 10:16 am

      You were in the right spot. The vanilla vine is in a pot with both a variegated vine and a regular vine and it is next to the Cacao tree in the Tropical Greenhouse.

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