Vanda Miss Joaquim
Vanda Miss Joaquim var. Agnes, an orchid hybrid, was selected as Singapore's National Flower on 15 April 1981. This inaugurated the first National Flower Week in Singapore. The plant is named after Agnes Joaquim (1854 - 1899), in whose garden it first appeared. It is considered the first orchid hybrid from Singapore and the first Vanda hybrid to be registered.
Origin and Distribution
Vanda Miss Joaquim is a hybrid between the Burmese Vanda teres and the Malayan Vanda hookeriana. There is controversy whether the flower was actually bred or discovered by Agnes Joaquim. One argument is that the plant is a natural hybrid and was discovered by Agnes Joaquim, who spotted it in her garden at 2 Narcis Street, Tanjong Pagar, in 1893. Another account claims that Agnes Joaquim, an experienced horticulturalist, created the hybrid rather than discovered it. The plant was taken to H. N. Ridley, the director of the Singapore Botanic Garden at the time, who first described the plant in the Gardeners' Chronicle on 24 June 1893. In his description, Ridley stated that Agnes Joaquim "succeeded in crossing Vanda hookeriana, Rchb.f., and V. teres...Unfortunately, no record was kept as to which was used as the male." In 2011, this mystery of the exact parentage of the Vanda Miss Joaquim was finally solved when scientists used DNA barcoding and inference techniques to determine that the Vanda teres was the pod parent (female) and the Vanda hookeriana was the pollen parent (male). The new hybrid was displayed for the first time outside Singapore at the Royal Horticultural Show in London in 1897. It was shown to the public in Singapore in 1899, when Agnes Joaquim won a prize for it at the Flower Show. Sadly she succumbed to cancer three months after that.
In the 1920s, Lester William Bryan from the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association brought back the variety to Hawaii where it soon gained popularity and was used to make leis. Many soldiers of World War II who passed through Hawaii sent cuttings of Vanda Miss Joaquim as souvenirs. Thus, it was to a large extent through Hawaii that the orchid first gained fame. Since then Vanda Miss Joaquim has set roots in the rest of Southeast Asia, in Hawaii and other American states such as Florida, and in other countries.
In Singapore, tourists can find the flower at the National Orchid Garden at the Botanic Gardens and, if it is in bloom, at the tombstone of Agnes Joaquim at the Armenian Church along Hill Street.
The plant grows in dense clumps of branching stems. It grows best in high humidity and full sunlight. Requiring support, it starts to bloom only when the plant's top exceeds its support by 40 to 50 cm. The flowers are a rosy-violet with an orange centre. There are many varieties of the Vanda Miss Joaquim. One variety - Vanda Miss Joaquim var Agnes, is also known as Vanda Joaquim, the "Wah-Kim", Vanda Agnes Joaquim and the Princess Aloha Orchid.
As Singapore's national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim's uses are more symbolic than utilitarian. The Vanda Miss Joaquim was selected from among 40 flowers, out of which 30 were orchids, as Singapore's national flower. This makes Singapore the only country to have a hybrid as her national flower. Among the several varieties of Vanda Miss Joaquim, the variety "Agnes" was chosen particularly for its vibrant colours, hardiness and resilience - qualities which reflect the Singapore spirit. Its ability to bloom throughout the year also won the judges over.
As early as the 1940s, the flower had already been picked as a symbol for various organisations. Firstly in 1947, the flower was used as the emblem for the Progressive Party and a decade later in 1957, the flower was used for the Malayan Orchid Society for its seal.
At least one park, the Vanda Miss Joaquim Park, and several roads have been named after the plant including Vanda Drive and Vanda Crescent.
Sitragandi Arunasalam & Ong Eng Chuan
Elliot, J. (2005). Orchid hybrids of Singapore: 1893-2003 (pp.125, 221-223). Singapore: Orchid Society of South East Asia.
(Call no.: RSING q635.9344095957 ELL)
The flower show [Microfilm: NL 344]. (1899, April 11). The Straits Times.
Hew, C. S., Yam, T. W., & Arditti, J. (2002). Biology of Vanda Miss Joaquim. Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2002.
(Call no.: RSING 584.4095957 HEW)
Johnson, H., & Wright, N. . Vanda Miss Joaquim: Singapore's national flower. Singapore: Suntree Media.
(Call no.: RSING 635.9344095957 JOH)
Khew, G. S. -W., & Tet, F. C. (2011, July 15). Parentage determination of Vanda Miss Joaquim (Orchidaceae) through two chloroplast genes rbcL and matK. AoB Plants, Volume 2011. doi: 10.1093/aobpla/plr018
Ministry of Communications, Information and the Arts. (n.d.). National Symbols: The national flower. Retrieved July 2, 2008, from
Ministry of Culture. (1981, April 15). Press announcement by the minister for culture Mr S Dhanabalan at the launching ceremony of the national flower Vanda Miss Joaquim held on 15 april 1981 at 3.00 pm at the Ministry of Culture conference room. Retrieved July, 2, 2008, from stars.nhb.gov.sg/stars/public/.
Mohan, B. (1981, April 19). Origin of a S'pore beauty [Microfilm: NL 11012]. New Nation.
National Parks Board. (n.d.). Vanda Miss Joaquim. Retrieved July 2 , 2008, from www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=79&Itemid=67.
Ridley, H. N. (2002). New and noteworthy plants. In C. S. Hew, T. W. Yam, & J. Arditti, Biology of Vanda Miss Joaquim. Singapore: Singapore University Press. (Reprinted from Garderners' Chronicle, 1893, June 24, 13, 740)
Teoh, E. S. (1998). A joy forever: Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore's national flower (pp. 7, 11, 22). Singapore: Times Editions.
(Call no.: SING 584.15095957 TEO)
Wright, N. H. (2003). Respected citizens: The history of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia (pp. 145-150, 218-220). Victoria, Australia: Amassia Publishing.
(Call no.: RSING 305.891992 WRI)
Alphonso, A. G.(1981). Singapore's national flower (Vanda Miss Joaquim). Malayan Orchid Review, 15, 9-14.
(Call no.: RSING 584.15 MOR)
A flower of her own. (1982). Goodwood Journal, 2nd qtr, 12-13, 15, 26.
(Call no.: RSING 052 GHCGJ )
Ministry of Information and the Arts. (1999). The national symbols kit. Singapore: Ministry of Information and the Arts.
(Call no.: YRSING 320.54095957027 NAT)
National Heritage Board. (n.d.). National symbols: Vanda Miss Joaquim. Retrieved July 7, 2008, from www.nhb.gov.sg/PE/resources/national_symbols/national_flower.html.
Vanda Miss Joaquim: The pavilion. (2002). Singapore: Tanjong Pagar Plaza Residents' Committee.
(Call no.: RSING 635.9344095957 VAN)
Wright, N. (2004). Vanda Miss Joaquim a deliberate cross or chance fertilisation. Retrieved December 23, 2004, from www.amassia.com.au/debate.htm
Yeoh, B. C. (1963). Miss Joaquim's orchid. Malayan Orchid Review, 36-39
(Call no.: RSING 584.15 MOR)
The information in this article is valid as at 8 October 2013 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.