Field Notes: Oahu’s Orchid Societies

Each month Field Notes explores Honolulu’s vibrant and varied scenes and subcultures. This month: orchid societies.
A meeting of the Aiea Orchid Club.
Photos: Odeelo Dayondon


Orchid lovers join orchid clubs and societies to show off their prized specimens, stage field trips to orchid nurseries, organize annual orchid shows, learn how to be better orchid growers and generally nurture their preoccupation with this diverse and widespread family of flowering plants.

The Honolulu Orchid Society, founded in 1939 with 19 members, is Oahu’s oldest orchid club. Today, it is one of 11 Oahu orchid groups, with hundreds of members. Many dedicated orchid lovers belong to multiple clubs.

Oahu’s Orchid Societies 

  • Aiea Orchid Club

  • Ewa Orchid Society

  • Hawaii Kai Orchid Society

  • Honolulu Orchid Society

  • Kaimuki Orchid Society

  • Kunia Orchid Society

  • Manoa Orchid Society

  • Mililani Orchid Society

  • Wahiawa Orchid Society

  • Windward Orchid Society

  • The Species Club (no hybrids allowed)


Not all orchid lovers love the same orchids but, with more than 22,000 species and 100,000 hybrids and cultivars in existence, there’s room for a range of tastes. Some people are drawn to orchids with beautiful flowers or pleasing fragrances. Others prefer the unflashy varieties, such as Hawaii’s three native orchids. Still others prefer the oddities. Bob Moffit, a member of the Aiea Orchid Club and the Honolulu Orchid Society, goes for these. One of his favorites is an orchid that stinks like rotting flesh and is pollinated by flies. “I grow a lot of things you would not want to make a corsage or a centerpiece with,” he says.


Orchid society meetings typically feature a show-and-tell, where members admire each others’ plants, and a guest speaker. Here are two recent speakers:

  • Ken Cameron, a visiting botany professor from the University of Wisconsin and an expert on vanilla orchids (yes, vanilla is an orchid), spoke to members of the Honolulu Orchid Society about the evolution, classification and molecular relationship of orchids, with special emphasis on—what else?—vanilla.

  • Fred Dishman, a carpenter and orchid grower, gave a presentation to members of the Windward Orchid Society called “Building a Backyard Greenhouse.” Using prefabricated parts, Dishman assembled an entire greenhouse inside the cafeteria at King Intermediate School, explaining each step as he went. Says Dishman, who is 50 and has been growing orchids for 20 years: “Other than surfing and carpentry, orchids are the only things that have captured my attention.”


  • Calvin Kumano, who heads both the Aiea Orchid Club and the Manoa Orchid Society, notes that orchid groups typically meet in public schools. “We transform the cafeterias into beautiful gardens,” says Kumano, seen here with a Doritaenopsis harlequin star.









  • Roy Tokunaga, a member of six orchid clubs, with a Dendrobium canaliculatum, a miniature Australian orchid he has had for 20 years. “It’s a living treasure, so you take care of it,” he says. “You get very close to it.”

  • Ruth Chun, a member of four orchid clubs, with an Oncidium Ruth’s Rainbow, a hybrid that a friend named after her. “Raising orchids is like raising children, but they don’t talk back,” she says.


Ruth Chun, president of the Honolulu Orchid Society, recommends using mayonnaise to polish dull leaves. Place a dab of mayo on a cloth and gently rub the tops of the leaves until they shine. Do not polish the undersides of the leaves, and be sure to remove all excess mayo or sunlight will cause burning. “I keep my plant in the shade for a day after cleaning it,” Chun says.