Vanilla Creeper
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Vanilla Creeper
ntroduced Photo: Manasi Karangutkar
Common name: Vanilla Creeper
Botanical name: Vanilla planifolia    Family: Orchidaceae (Orchid family)

Vanilla is a orchid creeper which is one of the primary sources for the popular vanilla flavouring. It is found in Central America and the West Indies. It prefers hot, wet, tropical climates. It is harvested mostly in Mexico and Madagascar. Like all members of the Vanilla genus, Vanilla planifolia is a vine. It uses its fleshy roots to support itself as it grows. Flowers are greenish-yellow, with a diameter of 2 in. They last only a day, and must be pollinated manually, during the morning, if fruit is desired. The plants are self-fertile, and pollination simply requires a transfer of the pollen from the anther to the stigma. If pollination does not occur, the flower is dropped the next day. Fruit is produced only on mature plants, which are generally over 10 ft long. The fruits are 6-9 in long pods. They mature after about five months, at which point they are harvested and "cured". "Curing" ferments and dries the pods while minimizing the loss of essential oils. Vanilla extract is obtained from this portion of the plant.

Identification credit: Aarti Khale
Photographed in Dapoli, Maharashtra & Munnar, Kerala.
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