AHHHHHHH ZABENNNYYYYAAAA!!* The name of this week’s FOTW, cymbidium, comes from the Latin, ‘cymba’, which annoyingly doesn’t have anything to do with the Lion King. It actually means ‘boat’, and is so named because when this evergreen orchid blooms, it features a noticeable hollowness in the lip of the flower. Tenuous? Maybe. Kind of cute? Not as much as that lil lion pup being held over Rafiki’s head but near enough.
Cymbidiums are largely native largely to tropical and subtropical Asia, where they bloom during winter at high altitudes - one of its most appealing qualities for growers/millennials who are rubbish at paying their heating bills is how stubbornly they stay alive even in temperatures as low as 7 degrees celcius.
Some species are considered a culinary delicacy in Bhutan, where it is traditionally cooked in a spicy curry or stew called ‘olatsche’. While I haven’t tried olatsche, and therefore can’t quite conjure a sense of what a boat orchard tastes like, it’s rather easier to get a whiff of the particularly great-smelling Chinese cymbidiums (fragrant cymbidiums have been cultivated in China for thousands of years, but only really became popular over in Europe during the Victorian period.)
Finally then, its symbolism: in more ancient times the cymbidium was a popular gift for signifying deep friendship and respect. Today, it symbolizes virtue and morality – which are also the qualities I think of when I picture that brave little cub who banished his evil uncle and those socially-disadvantaged hyenas from Pride Rock.
*I know that isn’t the correct lyric for the song that opens the Lion King, but if I’d written ‘Nants Ingonyama’, you ignoramuses wouldn’t have had a clue what tenuous reference I was trying to make, would you? Consider this footnote a nod in the right direction of cultural sensitivity, and maybe try to remember it next time you’re singing along. NAAAAAAAAAANTS INGOMYYYYAAAAAAA!!