THE National Library and Information System Authority (Nalis) featured images of native orchids in its 2013 calendar to honour the life and work of the late Prof Julian Kenny. These slides come from the Julian Kenny Collection housed in the Heritage Library at Nalis in Port of Spain.
The original collection of slides and photographs of local flora and fauna taken by Kenny was donated to the National Library in July 2004. The collection consists of approximately 2700 Kodachrome 10, 25 and 35mm colour slides, black and white image slides, negatives and photographs. It represents the professor's life work of the conservation of the environment and captures the natural history of Trinidad and Tobago from 1960 to 2004.
Prof Kenny, a true advocate for libraries, was also a renowned published author of several books on the subject of native orchids in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. The slides have been digitised and can be viewed at the Nalis Digital Library— www.nalis.gov.tt
Commonly known as the Aripo orchid, the Otostylis brachstalix produces during the months of March to June an upright inflorescence of white flowers with a central splash of yellow. It can be found in marshy wet tropical savannahs, experiencing extreme changes in moisture levels from wet to dry season. The grass-like leaves stand upright to 60cm in height.
Oncidium lanceanum Prof Kenny dated 1953 as the year that his official interest in orchids began when a friend of a friend identified the name of the lovely, delicate-looking orchid hanging in a calabash tree next to the aged, wooden house he inhabited at the time.
The uncommon Oncidium lanceanum is also called the Cedros Bee Orchid, because locally it is identified with the southwestern peninsula. Its popularity with collectors could lead to the extinction of the species.
Macradenia lutescens Macrademia lutescens is small and uncommon, blossoming in the dry season. It is an epiphytic species, meaning it grows on another larger plant or tree, without acting as a parasite on the host plant. Its flowers form clusters and open simultaneously.
The success of Kenny's hardcover Flowers of Trinidad and Tobago prompted him to be intrigued by the idea of repeating that success with a book on orchids, with more textual details.
The Pogonia rosea is a ground dweller, or terrestrial, favouring open savannah or shrub patches. There is an uncanny bluish blush to its leaves and stem, while its flamboyant flowers appear during the wet season.
Prof Kenny laboured through the fields and forests, over hills and into dales compiling the photos of species in his book "The Orchids of Trinidad and Tobago". Most of the photography was recorded outdoors and, in fact, he often returned plants to the field from his small orchid enclosure.
The epiphytic Rodrigueza lanceolata, called sometimes Coral orchid or Coralita, grows commonly in orchards and secondary forests during the closing of the dry season and the opening of the wet. Amassed in clusters, the small deep pink or red flowers stand out beautifully against green foliage.