Fastlane: Dawn Gerlica

Field botanist at Holden Arboretum in Kirtland and orchid grower

The grass is growing. The leaves are budding. And the Orchid Nutcases (Orchidius nutcasius) are in full blossom. "It's true, people really love their orchids," says Dawn Gerlica, field botanist at Holden Arboretum in Kirtland. "I'm not obsessed with them though. I mean, 80 orchids in your house isn't obsessed, is it?"

Tell me something about orchids we don't know.

Orchids have the ability to evolve over time to attract the insects that pollinate them.


Over centuries, orchids can actually change their shape and scent to give the appearance of looking like the female insect they're hoping to attract for pollination.

Wouldn't it be easier to just wear something cute?

Probably. But it would take thumbs to get dressed and they haven't evolved that much.

Your favorite orchid?

Cattleya and Cymbidiums. They're easy to grow and very, very pretty.

Have you ever spoken to an orchid?

Not that I'm aware of.

If you did, it would probably develop earplugs.

Right. Because if you don't sound like a bee, it's probably not interested in what you have to say anyway.

The best place to grow orchids?

Orchids from the rain forest are absolutely amazing. By the way, another interesting orchid fact is that Ohio-bred orchids are soil-based, not air-based.

Now you're telling me they have levitation powers?

Tropical orchids are epiphytic, which means they like the humidity and the air. They actually don't need soil around their roots. It would rot them.

Are daffodils underrated?

Without question.

Do you have a favorite flower other than orchids?

I love passionflowers. I think they're beautiful and they make a great conversation piece.

Don't you think an orchid Chia Pet would do well?

I'm not sure. Why don't you try?

So I'm guessing your husband can't exactly walk in with flowers.

Yeah, he's a little intimidated. But occasionally he'll bring home some roses and score a few points.

Do you judge other people's yards?

I try not to. But, y'know.

Are there orchid conventions?

Absolutely. The American Orchid Society holds events throughout the year. And there are other groups, too. People travel all over to meet and talk and compare their orchids.

And I bet those people probably think the people who go to "Star Trek" conventions are weird.


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