Beautiful Plants – Proust’s Cattleya Orchid


The most sensual of flowers for those who love Proust!

The Cattleya is a genus of 42 species of orchids from Costa Rica to tropical South America.  It was named in 1824 by John Lindley after Sir William Cattley who received and successfully cultivated specimens of Cattleya Labiata (pictured above) that were used as packing material in a shipment of other orchids.

But the full glory of the orchids, their significance and fascination, is shown in Proust’s first volume of Remembrance of Things Past – Swann’s Way.   Swann’s lover, loves Cattleyas because they have the “supreme merit of not looking like other flowers”  “scraps of silk” – like something cut out of the lining of her cloak – “a distinguished and unexpected sister” – so delicate and so refined!  But in due course they take on an entirely different significance when “doing a Cattleya” becomes their code for their intense and intriguing intimate relationship.

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