As this time of the years reminds us, flowers never go out of style. Whether it is to celebrate a holiday or make up for some bad behavior, flowers just get it done every time. This has been the case for generations and will be the case from now until eternity. There is a good reason why we have flower shops on every other street corner.
According to AboutFlowers.com, "the U.S. floral industry includes fresh cut flowers, cut cultivated greens, potted flowering plants, foliage plants and bedding/garden plants, making floriculture the third largest U.S. agricultural crop. The U.S. floral industry consists of more than 60,000 small businesses, such as growers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors and importers." Total revenue for these businesses is over $35 billion annually with 67% of fresh flowers being imported largely from Colombia and Ecuador. Can you name the state leading fresh flower production? California dominates the market with 77% of the US production; Washington produces 6%, Hawaii is at 4%, and Florida, Oregon, and New Jersey each produce 3% of our fresh flowers.
Commercial flower growers are fully aware that higher levels of atmospheric CO2 produce great results in indoor greenhouses, and the industry has dreamed up many creative ways to cheaply produce the magic gas. There is no doubt the CO2 creates better flowers, but maintaining higher levels of CO2 can be expensive and in some cases, not cost effective. Flowers in the real world don't have to worry about the financial cost of higher levels of atmospheric CO2 - it is coming to them absolutely free given emissions from fossil fuel consumption throughout the world. Flowers today are growing in a world of ever-increasing CO2 levels, and research continues to show us that the flowers are thrilled with the situation.
A recent article on orchids is a case in point. The article appeared in Plant Cell Reports and was written by four scientists from several universities in Japan. While we typically think of orchids as tropical and subtropical flowers for our enjoyment, there are many varieties that grow in temperate and even cold climates. Did you know that vanilla plants are orchids? The underground tubers of some terrestrial orchids can be ground into powder and used in cooking (ground orchid powder shows up in hot beverages and ice cream). Make a trip to Reunion Island and enjoy a rum that is made from the dried leaves of orchids, or if you cannot make the trip, you can purchase any number of perfumes that are derived from the scent of orchids. All of these uses makes us wonder about the future of this highly diverse member of the biosphere.