The Chocolate Orchid - Oncidium Sharry Baby

Chocolate orchid - Oncidium Sharry Baby 'Sweet Fragrance'
Oncidium Sharry Baby 'Sweet Fragrance'

From the moment I became interested in orchids, I started to spend months researching and studying them, having the internet as my main source of information. It was only after a long time that I had the opportunity to meet them in person at an exhibition. The first thing that amazed me was the variety of perfumes all those different orchids could exhale.

Among them, a particular micro orchid caught my attention. It was an Oncidium and its perfume could be smelled at distance, filling the whole room. It was a sweet aroma, which reminded me that of white chocolate. Some people mention vanilla (which, by the way, is extracted from another orchid). It was love at first sight. From this moment, I began to evaluate the orchid perfume as one of the requirements for deciding on new acquisitions.

Unfortunately, this orchid with its unmistakable aroma does not exist in nature. It was created by humans, by means of various crosses between different species of orchids. Its scientific name is Oncidium Sharry Baby 'Sweet Fragrance', being popularly known as chocolate orchid.

It is very common to see the name of this chocolate orchid written in different forms. Although the term that comes to mind is cherry, the correct registered version is sharry. The justification for this strange name is in the head of the cultivator who created the hybrid. It is up to him to register it properly, following the nomenclature rules for new botanical cultivars. For some reason, the creator of the orchid with chocolate aroma decided to baptize it Oncidium Sharry Baby 'Sweet Fragrance'.

This chocolate orchid is a hybrid whose parents are Oncidium Jamie Sutton and Oncidium Honolulu. It is a relatively new orchid and it was registered in 1983 by Dorothy A. O'Flaherty at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), a British entity officially responsible for the registration of new hybrids of orchids and other plants produced around the world.

Oncidium Sharry Baby is an orchid descended from Oncidium sotoanum, also known as Oncidium ornithorhynchum. This mexican orhid is also one of the progenitors of Oncidium Twinkle 'Yellow Fantasy', which can also be found in other colors, all of them are very fragrant.

It is curious to notice that the perfume of Oncidium ornithorhynchum is quite controversial. Some people like it, but most hate it. Undoubtedly, it is a strong and striking aroma. I feel the scent of egg, others think it smells like medicine. Who knows what happens… The descendants of Oncidium ornithorhynchum, on the other hand, usually have a more pleasant perfume.

Chocolate Orchid - Oncidium Sharry Baby 'Sweet Fragrance'
Oncidium Sharry Baby 'Sweet Fragrance'

Extremely generous, the Oncidium Sharry Baby orchid can develop numerous floral stems, usually filled with small flowers measuring approximately 2 cm in diameter. A stem can hold more than 70 flowers, which enhances the scent of this orchid with chocolate aroma, strongly emphasizing its presence in any environment, especially indoors.

The number of flowers and floral stems that a chocolate orchid can produce varies accordingly to three factors. First, the age of the plant. The more mature the orchid, the more pseudobulbs the plant possesses, and the better and more abundant will be its flowering. The other two crucial factors are light and fertilizers.

The long leaves of this particular orchid are cause for concern and controversy. Here in Brazil, invariably, they have several black spots, especially on the extremities. Many beginners think that it is a serious disease and even discard the plant after flowering. However, this is a common feature of this hybrid orchid, which does not compromise its development. It continues to grow and bloom normally, despite the spots. The main drawback of this feature is aesthetic. Some orchid growers claim it to be a virus, others report that the phenomenon occurs in environments with excess light. I have never seen an Oncidium Sharry Baby orchid without spots. I think it's charming.

Oncidium Sharry Baby does not have a specific season to bloom. Due to its hybrid nature, it can flower at different times in the year. When well cultivated, the chocolate orchid can bloom more than once a year. Like most orchids of its genus, this orchid appreciates places with plenty of indirect light. The substrate should be composed of materials that dry quickly, as the plant does not tolerate wet roots.

The combination of materials I use to grow the chocolate orchid, here in the apartment, is the plastic pot filled with mixed substrate, composed of pine bark and charcoal. Eventually, I add a little amount of moss sphagnum to the material, so that the moisture is retained for longer periods of time. However, it is important not to compress it around the roots. As always, watering should only happen when the substrate is dry and the vessel is light weighted.

Although I have already killed some of these chocolate orchids, I must mention that it is an orchid considered easy to grow. I have already obtained beautiful blooms inside my bedroom, using the windowsill as the main place of cultivation. Which means that this chocolate orchid does not require intense light to bloom.

For those who enjoy delicate and fragrant orchid flowers, arranged in long stems in the form of nice cascades, this Oncidium Sharry Baby is an excellent acquisition.

This article can also be read in Portuguese: Orquídea Chocolate.