Most Neofinetia have a very standard shape and color, but there exist some flower forms that are so outrageous it is hard to believe they are actually the pure species. I remember vividly seeing Seikai for the first time years ago and thinking, “I wonder what that is crossed with?” A few couple later I was find out that this form was indeed a pure Neofinetia, not a hybrid at all. While the debate about the purity of some forms rages on, the natural variability this species exhibits remains remarkable. Perhaps no other group of fuukiran exemplifies this variety, both in breadth and form, than the odd shaped flower types.
Odd flower forms can range in size as well with plants like Seikai, Unkai, and Shunkyuuden sporting abnormally large flowers while others are diminutive such as Kisshukouryuu. Still others have extra spurs, no spurs, flowers that don’t fully open, flowers that face directly upward, and so on. Some even are highly colored such as the prized Benikanzashi. Many are rare and therefore valuable. Here’s a taste.
One of the most choice fuukiran is Seikai since it is so different from most that at first glance it is hard to believe it is a pure Neofinetia falcata at all. It is a “bean-leaf” type, but the leaves have a lovely arch to them, hence its name which means “ocean wave”. Like other bean leaf forms they are very succulent. The flowers too are just amazing, much larger than an average flower, pink, with upturned flower parts and a straight spur pointing in a downward direction. It remains fairly expensive since it cannot be reproduced through mericlones or seed, but only by division. Slow growing, but not difficult, this one belongs in every serious fuukiran collection.
A close cousin to Seikai is Unkai , but honestly it cannot hold a candle to its fairer friend. The flowers have a very similar shape as well, but tend to be paler. It too is a “bean-leaf” type, however the leaves are much less curved. It is a faster grower than Seikai, forming very nice clumps quickly and when in flower it really is a great looking plant. Care needs to be taken when watering both of these since direct watering can make the buds blast.
A really bizarre flower is Shunkyuden. It has many more flower parts than is normal and they grow in all manner of directions – they are difficult to explain, so I’ll let the photo speak for itself. Variability of their form is high, with no two looking quite alike, even year to year. It tends to be late flowering, often into late July. A bit slow to form clumps, but not difficult, and also quite expensive. Unfortunately, the flowers are completely sterile.
Kutsuwamushi is another desirable form with delicate pink flowers that present themselves more upturned and cupped than a typical flower. The flower’s spur, too, curves gracefully upward.
Kisshukouryuu is in a word, weird. The plant itself has very thin and long leaves that grow in loose fans. The flowers are somewhat miss-happened looking and wiry, especially the spur. They also are quite small and delicate. The overall impression is that of a plant that is on its last legs, sure to die soon. The funny part is that it is both easy to grow and flower, in fact, it is one of the tougher plants I’ve grown. Not expensive, but not often seen or sold. Personally, its one of my favorites.
Another great plant is Kinginrasha. The plant itself is small, with tight fans of leaves that tend to have more purple pigment than most forms. The flower spikes grow straight up, and as if on cue, the flowers face completely upward, with all flower parts recurving backward strongly. The spur is so curved that it literally curls back on itself. It’s name, Kinginrasha, speaks to this plant’s uniqueness: “kin” refers to the flowers opening white since this word means “silver”; “gin” refers to the golden color the flowers turn as they age since this word means “gold”; and “rasha” refers to the rough texture of not only the plant’s leaves, but also the flowers themselves since this word means “rasp”. A must have plant.
Tenshin is the “Pinnocchio” of the fuukiran world. The flower overall is normal looking except that the spur sticks straight out, like the proboscis of a moth. Easy to grow and flower, and an added bonus is that it clumps quickly. A unique and desirable form that is becoming more available.
Soubiryuu is a double flower, not in the normal sense, but in that both the lip and the spur are repeated – each flower has two. All other flower parts are completely normal. When you see this flower you do a double take (pun intended), because at first it looks “normal”, but something is amiss until you look closer. Great plant, easy to flower and grow, but unfortunately doesn’t like to clump. My specimen has remained just one fan over the past four seasons and yet it flowers generously and faithfully each year.
And now for the two really cool triple spurred plants, Manjushage and Benikanzashii. The former is the famous variety that everyone wants to get their hands on. The flowers present themselves in a fairly normal manner, but the three spurs are anything but normal, splayed out in an even pattern and curving forward, giving the flower an insect-like quality. This one remains rare and choice, even in Japan, and divisions command a high price if you can find one. Recently seedling plants have been coming to market, but from all accounts none of these are flowering true. Get one if you can, but be prepared to pay a hefty sum. Unfortunately, the plant pictured here is not mine, but my Dutch friend’s, Rogier van Vugt, as is the picture.
The purple flowered counter part of Manjushage is Benikanzashii. It is even more rare and pricey than the former plant. A single flowering size fan fetches $200 dollars or more. A similar, if not identical form called Oiran is available from time to time. This one was photographed at a local orchid show. I asked about the price and they said it wasn’t for sale, but a plant this size would fetch $400 or more. Rare and precious, good luck finding one of these beauties. Expect to pay a lot more in the states or Europe if you find one.
I saved the best for last. While Fukiden remains the top ranked fuukiran, Hanamatoi has to be the most sought after. The flower of this beauty is so rare as to have no equal. It cannot be grown from seed, nor has it been successfully cloned, so all plants on the market are from divisions. It is perhaps the top priced of all fuukiran these days. A single flowering fan might fetch more than a thousand dollars in Japan. It, like Shunkyuuden, is completely sterile and the flower never actually fully opens. The name refers to a baton that was waved in the old days of Japan called a matoi when there was a fire since the flower has a similar shape. In truth, this is the top reigning fuukiran these days. This plant was photographed at a local show. To my knowledge it is unavailable outside Japan and Korea.