Como’s Orchids Scheduled for a Plant Check-Up

Como Friends invests in best practice care to preserve the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory’s collection of orchids

Animals aren’t the only living things at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory that require occasional health care. Just like the polar bears and the penguins, the plants at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory undergo regular check-ups and get plenty of follow-up care, thanks to your contributions to Como Friends.

This year, in fact, more than 1,600 of Como’s orchids will be tested for Odontoglossum ringspot virus and Cymbidium mosiac virus–two common viruses that can devastate cultivated orchids. Working with the plant pathology department at the University of Minnesota, Como horticulturists detected the virus in several plants two years ago, and have been working to eradicate further infection by culling plants that test positive for the virus, and adopting strict sanitation protocols when repotting and tending the orchids.

“While some plants become symptomatic and lose their vigor, some very old orchids that are still blooming have also tested positive for the virus,” says horticultural curator Tina Dombrowski. “We’re being diligent about testing each plant for infection because every orchid we propagate could be perpetuating the virus, and we want to keep our collection healthy. We’re fortunate to have the support of Como Friends which is investing in the test kits we need to preserve a robust and beautiful collection of orchids.”

Every year, Como Friends’ board of directors approves more than $325,000 in grants for projects like this, providing the resources Como Zoo and the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory need to invest in high priority improvements and emergent needs. “It’s just one of the ways Como Friends invests private support into efforts that benefit the collections the public enjoys at Como,” says Como Friends president Jackie Sticha. “Como’s orchids provide so much color and inspiration during the long winters, it’s worth it to invest in their long-term health.”