全日本蘭協会名誉会長 福 原 義 春
Honorary Chairman of All Japan Orchid Society
Yoshiharu Fukuhara
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Restrepia lansbergii 栽培、Photo:福原義春氏)

蘭科植物とは
福 原 義 春

 植物分類学上の蘭科は最大のグループと云ってもよいだろう。全世界にわたって何と三万数千の自生種があり、更に19世紀半ばから人工交配を重ねて、今では10万に近い種が記載または登録されている。
 その蘭科の花の特徴は、百合のように6弁(全てが花弁ではない)であるが、非対称であって、殆どの蘭は植物の形態が違っていても花を一目見ると蘭だなと見当がつく。
 ひとつの説として、蘭科植物は進化の最後の方に分化したので、今でも進化を続けているという考え方もあるようだ。従って蘭科植物のグループが出現したときには既に地上には苔類があり、羊歯類があり、草本・木本の植物で埋め尽くされていた。そこで蘭の仲間はさまざまに進化して住む所を確保したという考えだ。 
 エクアドルの技師アレクサンダー・ヒルツは各地の資源を調査するうち、あちこちに自生する蘭の魅力のとりこになった。来日して「爆発する進化」と題するスピーチをしたことがある。彼によると、エクアドルは有名な火山国であり、ひとつの火山が大爆発すると周囲の植物相は壊滅してしまう。ところが僅かな期間でいろいろな植物が再生し、蘭の仲間はその短い期間にさまざまな変異が現れているという説であった。
 それは別として、かくも多くの蘭の仲間には、樹上に着生して(寄生するのではない)栄養分と水分を摂り、生育するグループもあれば、地中に根を張って育つグループもあり、岩の割れ目から根を下ろすものもあり、また落葉の堆積する湿って暗い環境を好むものもあり、実に多様である。
 更に云えば、植物分類学上違った属の間で、人工交配で雑種が出来やすいこともある。動物はもちろん、他の植物でも滅多に見られない現象である。
 こんな具合で、一口に蘭の仲間と云ってもその内容は実にゆたかで変化の幅が大きい。それが蘭の最大の魅力ではないだろうか。
 もっと詳しく見て行くと、欧米型の蘭は私たちから見ると何となくバタ臭く、アジア産の蘭たちには地味で控えめに見えるものが多いのは何故だろうか。
 Cymbidiumと名付けられた大きな属は南アジアから中国、日本まで自生種が分布している。タイやミャンマーなどの自生種は華やかという程でもないが、それなりに派手めであるが、中国、日本での自生種は茶系統や緑系統の花が多く、何となく渋めである。それらに人の手が加わって観賞用の種類が作られると、更にその特徴ははっきりと違ってくる。はじめヨーロッパで、それから米国で改良されたシンビデュームは花が上向きに平開し、色も次第に鮮明に改良される。だが、中国、韓国、日本で観賞用として評価される蘭はやはりどことなく地味なものが多く、花も平開しないので内抱えになって中央の芯を見せないものを良しとする。
 もともと自然環境との相互作用で、自生種自体が環境になじむというのも不思議なことである。その同じ環境の中に住む人間も適応しているのだ。そしてその人間がまた手を加えて選抜すると、その住む人たちの嗜好に見合うようになってくる。そうなると、人々の社会生活や、それを背景とした美意識が植物のグループに大きな影響を与えることになる。 
 そこへグローバル化によってこのような情況に変化が起こる。欧米で発達した大型の華やかな種類と、日本産の小型の種類とを交配して、ミニアチュアでありながら大型種の美しさを発揮させるような交配が次々と作られるようになった。そしてその背景には、欧米の人々の嗜好の多様化、同じように日本、中国などの人々の好みの幅が広くなって来たことがある。
 このように、自然の資源としての蘭の多様な変化と、さらに環境、人間社会の影響を受けたダイナミックな変化などを考えると、一口に蘭と云っても、今日現在での実に多様な進化と、更にそれが時間軸でどのように変わって行くのか、深い深いものがある。
 話を自生種に戻すならば、進化した蘭たちは夫々の種の保存を助けてくれる特定の昆虫と共存している。また胚を持たない蘭の、ごく軽い種子は遠くに飛んで着地点で蘭菌と共生して育つと云われている。
 また昆虫が花粉の受粉をするメカニズムこそ、蘭の進化の智慧を私たちに見せてくれる。かくの如く、驚くべく多数の種を擁する蘭のグループこそ、私たちの尽きぬ興味の対象となるのだ。

The Orchid Family of Botanical Life
~ Yoshiharu Fukuhara ~

I believe it is safe to say that the orchid family is the single largest known group in the study of systematic botany today. Well over 30,000 natural species of orchids have been identified worldwide, and adding in the varieties realized through artificial crossing, a process dating from the mid-19th century, brings the grand total of species either registered or recorded to close to 10,000 in all.
In terms of the characteristics of orchids, the flowers themselves resemble the lily insofar as they have six petals (although not in all cases are they actually petals). Orchids are asymmetrical, however, with the shapes of almost all of these plants differing from others. Nevertheless, a single glance at the flowers themselves is normally sufficient to tell us that they are in fact orchids.
There appears to be one theory that the orchid family of flora is a differentiation that emerged at the final stage of evolution, which means that the group is continuing to evolve. Accordingly, at the time that the orchid family group first appeared, there were already moss and fern plants on earth, which was effectively covered with herbaceous and woody plants. Facing that type of environment, the view is that orchids went through various types of evolutions to stake out places where they could survive.
The Ecuadorian engineer Alexander Hiltz encountered various natural species of orchids in his widespread surveys of natural resources, and became fascinated with their charm. He had occasion to visit Japan as well, where he delivered a lecture entitled ''The Explosion of Evolution.'' According to Hiltz, Ecuador is renowned as a country of volcanoes, with the eruption of a single mountain devastating the flora in the vicinity. His theory, however, is that various different types of plants come back to live after a very short period of time, with orchids also revealing numerous variations during that short duration.
Apart from this, among the many types of orchids that have been found, there is also a group of the plants that insert themselves into trees (although not to be confused with parasites), and obtain the nutrients and moisture necessary to grow. Others put down roots in the ground, push their roots into the cracks in rocks or prefer dark and damp environments created by accumulations of dead leaves. In this way, there are truly many different types of orchids.
What's more, it is also easy for hybrids to emerge between species that differ in terms of systematic botany as result of artificial crossing. This is a phenomenon that is certainly rarely seen in animals, or in other types of plants for that matter.
In this way, the ''orchid family,'' as such, is truly rich in variety and change. In my own view, this diversity is the single greatest appeal of this member of the botanical world.
Probing deeper into the subject, viewed from the Japanese standpoint, we arrive at the question of why Western-type orchids for some reason appear exotic, while Asian orchids come off as being more plain and reserved?
The large-sized ''Cymbidium'' orchid group is a natural species found over regions from South Asia to China and Japan. The natural species found in Thailand, Myanmar and other countries in that vicinity are somewhat gorgeous (although not excessively glamorous). In contrast, the natural orchids found in China and Japan can be said to be largely brown or green types that are plainer and more refined in appearance. When human wisdom is used to transform these species into more ornamental types, these different characteristics shine through in even greater clarity. With Cymbidium orchids, for which improvements were first made in Europe and then in the United States as well, the flowers bloom widely in a flat and upward direction, with the colors also improved to become gradually more distinct. However, most of the orchids favored as ornamental types in China, Korea and Japan are rather plain in appearance, with the flowers also not blooming wide but rather remaining cradled in appearance and failing to show off their stamens and pistils within.
There is also a strange and intriguing phenomenon, however, in which the natural species mobilize interaction with the natural environment to become adapted to those conditions. The people who live in these same environments, furthermore, also adapt to the surroundings. Then, when these residents transfer their own whims and selections to the plants, the flowers come to reflect the tastes of those people. In this way, therefore, the social lifestyles of people, as well as the aesthetic sensations that form the background for their lives, come to exert a major impact on the plant groups.
Globalization has also entered the scene to bring changes to these conditions. The large and flamboyant species that have developed in the West have been crossed with the smaller orchids grown in Japan, with such hybridization leading to the steady creation of orchids that, while being miniature in size, nevertheless manifest the beauty of the larger species. Behind this trend can be seen the diversifying tastes of Westerners, while in the same way the preferences of people in Japan, China and other counties are expanding as well.
As explained, therefore, there have been wide-ranging changes in orchid as a natural resource, while the impact of the natural environment and human society has also translated into dynamic changes and other shifts. When we consider these developments, though we often refer to the ''orchid'' as a single entity, in reality the truly diversified evolution that we can see today, and the question of how this situation will come to change over time, provides a deep and profound subject for reflection.
Getting back to the natural species, orchids that have evolved over the generations also coexist with certain types of insects that function to help preserve the individual species. Besides this, it is said that orchid seeds, which are extremely lightweight and have no embryo, are carried over great distances by the wind, eventually coming to earth where they coexist and grow with the orchid germ.
For that matter, the mechanism in which insects serve to pollinate plants furnishes a captivating glimpse into the true wisdom of the orchidユs evolution.
The orchid family, with its astonishing number of branches and offshoots, is truly the source of insatiable interest and fascination for enthusiasts like myself.

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