Orchids Wiki

Vanilla humblotii plate.jpg
Vanilla humblotii plate from
Curtis's botanical magazine vol. 131

Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Asparagales
Subfamily: Vanilloideae
Tribe: Vanilleae
SubTribe: Vanillinae
Genus: Vanilla
Plum. ex Mill. 1754
Type Species
Vanilla mexicana

Vanilla is a genus of about 110 species in the orchid family (Orchidaceae), including the species Vanilla planifolia from which commercial vanilla flavoring is derived.


This evergreen genus occurs worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions, from tropical America to tropical Asia, New Guinea and West Africa. It was known to the Aztecs for its flavoring qualities. It is also grown commercially (esp. Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla pompona and Vanilla tahitensis).


This genus of vine-like plants has a monopodial climbing habit. They can form long vines with a length of more than 35 m, with alternate leaves spread along its length. The short, oblong, dark green leaves of the Vanilla are thick and leathery, even fleshy in some species, though there are a significant number of species that have their leaves reduced to scales or have become nearly or totally leafless and appear to use their green climbing stems for photosynthesis. Long and strong aerial roots grow from each node.

The racemose inflorescences short-lived flowers arise successively on short peduncles from the leaf axils or scales. There may be up to 100 flowers on a single raceme, but usually no more than 20. The flowers are quite large and attractive with white, green, greenish yellow or cream colors. Their sepals and petals are similar. Each flower opens up in the morning and closes late in the afternoon, never to re-open. If pollination has not occurred meanwhile, it will be shed.

The lip is tubular-shaped and surrounds the long, bristly column, opening up, as the bell of a trumpet, at its apex. The anther is at the top of the column and hangs over the stigma, separated by the rostellum. Blooming occurs only when the flowers are fully grown. Most species have a sweet scent. The flowers are self-fertile but need pollinators to perform this task. The flowers are presumed to be pollinated by stingless bees and certain hummingbirds, which visit the flowers primarily for its nectar. But hand pollination is the best method in commercially grown Vanilla.

The fruit ('vanilla bean') is an elongate, fleshy seed pod 10-20 cm long. It ripens gradually (8 to 9 months after flowering), eventually turning black in color and giving off a strong aroma. Each pod contains thousands of minute seeds, but it is the pod that is used to create vanilla flavoring. Significantly, Vanilla planifolia is the only orchid used for industrial purposes (in the food industry and in the cosmetic industry).

Vanilla species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Hypercompe eridanus and Hypercompe icasia.


Most species grow in intermediate to warm areas with partial shade to full sun. Plant prefers dryouts between watering. Plant can be grown through cuttings with nodes. Pot in medium bark, sphagnum moss, or mount the plant. Vines should be tip pruned to induce flowering, once the plant is around 3 years of age.


The name came from the Spanish word "vainilla", diminutive form of "vaina" (meaning "sheath"), which is in turn derived from Latin "vagina".


  1. Myrobroma Salisb. 1807


  • Vanilla abundiflora (Borneo).
  • Vanilla acuminata (Gabon).
  • Vanilla acuta (N. South America)..
  • Vanilla africana (W. & WC. Trop. Africa).
  • Vanilla albida (Taiwan, Indo-China to Malesia).
  • Vanilla andamanica (Andaman Is).
  • Vanilla angustipetala (Brazil - São Paulo).
  • Vanilla annamica (SC. China to Vietnam).
  • Vanilla aphylla (Assam to Java).
  • Vanilla appendiculata (Guyana).
  • Vanilla bahiana (Brazil - Bahia).
  • Vanilla bakeri (Cuba)..
  • Vanilla bampsiana (C. Zaire).
  • Vanilla barbellata (S. Florida to Caribbean).
  • Vanilla barrereana (French Guiana).
  • Vanilla bertoniensis (Paraguay.
  • Vanilla bicolor (Caribbean to N. & W. South America).
  • Vanilla borneensis (Borneo).
  • Vanilla bradei (Brazil - São Paulo).
  • Vanilla calopogon (Philippines - Luzon).
  • Vanilla calyculata (Colombia).
  • Vanilla carinata (Brazil).
  • Vanilla chalottii (Gabon).
  • Vanilla chamissonis (French Guiana to NE. Argentina).
  • Vanilla claviculata (Caribbean).
  • Vanilla columbiana (Colombia).
  • Vanilla correllii (Bahamas).
  • Vanilla coursii (Madagascar).
  • Vanilla cristagalli (N. Brazil).
  • Vanilla cristatocallosa (Guyana to N. Brazil).
  • Vanilla cucullata (Cameroon).
  • Vanilla decaryana (SW. Madagascar).
  • Vanilla denticulata (Brazil)
  • Vanilla diabolica (Indonesia - Sulawesi).
  • Vanilla dilloniana (S. Florida to Caribbean).
  • Vanilla dubia (Brazil - Minas Gerais).
  • Vanilla duckei (Brazil).
  • Vanilla dungsii (Brazil).
  • Vanilla edwallii (Brazil to Argentina) .
  • Vanilla fimbriata (Guyana).
  • Vanilla francoisii (NE. Madagascar).
  • Vanilla gardneri (Brazil).
  • Vanilla giulianettii (New Guinea).
  • Vanilla grandiflora (S. Trop. America).
  • Vanilla grandifolia (Príncipe to Zaire).
  • Vanilla griffithii (W. Malaysia).
  • Vanilla hallei (Gabon).
  • Vanilla hamata (Peru) .
  • Vanilla hartii (C. America).
  • Vanilla havilandii (Borneo).
  • Vanilla helleri (C. America).
  • Vanilla heterolopha (Gabon).
  • Vanilla hostmannii (Suriname).
  • Vanilla humblotii (Comoros) .
  • Vanilla imperialis (W. Trop. Africa to Tanzania and Angola).
  • Vanilla inodora (Mexico to C. America).
  • Vanilla insignis (Honduras).
  • Vanilla kaniensis (New Guinea).
  • Vanilla kempteriana (New Guinea).
  • Vanilla kinabaluensis (Pen. Malaysia to Borneo).
  • Vanilla latisegmenta (Guyana).
  • Vanilla leprieurii (French Guiana).
  • Vanilla lindmaniana (Brazil - Mato Grosso).
  • Vanilla madagascariensis (N. & NW. Madagascar).
  • Vanilla marowynensis (Suriname).
  • Vanilla methonica (Colombia).
  • Vanilla mexicana (S. Florida, Mexico to Trop. America).
  • Vanilla moonii (Sri Lanka).
  • Vanilla nigerica (S. Nigeria to Cameroon).
  • Vanilla ochyrae (Cameroon).
  • Vanilla odorata (S. Mexico to Trop. America).
  • Vanilla organensis (Brazil - Rio de Janeiro).
  • Vanilla ovalis (Philippines).
  • Vanilla ovata (French Guiana).
  • Vanilla palembanica (Sumatra).
  • Vanilla palmarum (Cuba, S. Trop. America).
  • Vanilla parvifolia (S. Brazil to Paraguay).
  • Vanilla penicillata (Venezuela) .
  • Vanilla perexilis (Paraguay).
  • Vanilla perrieri (NW. Madagascar).
  • Vanilla phaeantha (S. Florida to Caribbean, C. America).
  • Vanilla phalaenopsis (Seychelles).
  • Vanilla pierrei (Indo-China).
  • Vanilla pilifera (Assam to Borneo).
  • Vanilla planifolia Jacks. ex Andrews 1808 (S. Florida to Caribbean, Mexico to Paraguay).
  • Vanilla platyphylla (Indonesia - Sulawesi).
  • Vanilla poitaei (Caribbean).
  • Vanilla pompona Schiede (Caribbean).
  • Vanilla polylepis (Kenya to S. Trop. Africa).
  • Vanilla porteresiana (French Guiana).
  • Vanilla purusara (Brazil).
  • Vanilla ramosa (Ghana to Tanzania).
  • Vanilla ribeiroi (Brazil - Mato Grosso).
  • Vanilla rojasiana (Paraguay to NE. Argentina).
  • Vanilla roscheri (Ethiopia to NE. KwaZulu-Natal).
  • Vanilla ruiziana (Peru).
  • Vanilla schwackeana (Brazil - Minas Gerais).
  • Vanilla seranica (Maluku - Seram).
  • Vanilla seretii (WC. Trop. Africa).
  • Vanilla siamensis (China - S. Yunnan to Thailand).
  • Vanilla sprucei (Colombia).
  • Vanilla sumatrana (Sumatra).
  • Vanilla surinamensis (Suriname).
  • Vanilla tahitiensis (Tahiti) (synonym of Vanilla planifolia Jacks. ex Andrews 1808)
  • Vanilla trigonocarpa (Costa Rica to N. Brazil.)
  • Vanilla uncinata (N. Brazil).
  • Vanilla utteridgei (W. New Guinea).
  • Vanilla vellozii (Brazil) .
  • Vanilla walkeriae (S. India, Sri Lanka).
  • Vanilla wariensis (New Guinea).
  • Vanilla weberbaueriana (Peru).
  • Vanilla wightii (SW. India).


This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors). Smallwikipedialogo.png