"Generally speaking, orchids seem to drive people crazy. The people who love orchids love them madly, but the passion for orchids is not necessarily a passion for beauty. Something about the form of an orchid makes it seem almost more like a creature than a flower. Many orchids are strange-looking, and others have bizarre shapes and jarring color combinations, and all orchids are rather ugly when they aren't in flower."
That's a quote from Susan Orlean, the famous author who wrote "The Orchid Thief." I couldn't help but think of her words yesterday as I made my to the Redland International Orchid Festival at Fruit and Spice Park. It's a good hour from downtown Miami, and to get there, you have to drive past guys selling lobsters, khaki pants, shrimp and coco frio out of vans. (Lobster! In this heat!)
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After stopping for several tractors hauling pallets of ornamental plants, I noticed that the late-afternoon air had taken on an orange-grey haze. It was the fires burning in the Everglades. At the festival, I parked nearly 1,000 feet away from the entrance -- there were that many cars and people, even though it was 4 p.m.
People toted bags of orchids and plants past me; some had even brought their own coolers, obviously prepared for the inferno-like heat. Then I heard a woman lean in to one booth and ask, "Do you have any vanilla orchids?" and I knew I was among the obssessed.
The orchid show runs through today at 5 p.m.
-- Tamara Lush