Summer Scent of Sanggumay Orchid

Summer Bloom of Sanggumay is already here when you smell the scent of the sanggumay orchid. Sanggumay, scientifically called Dendrobium anosmum, is found over wide range of habitat from India ,Burma, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.

sanggumay orchid
sanggumay orchid purple color


Sanggumay” is the term for the orchid species. Its root word was derived from two Tagalog word  ” Sangsang and Gumay ”or “Nakakaumay” ( Dendrobium anosmum ) very strong odor or nauseating smell from a distance.

Nauseating Smell or Fragrance

Sometimes, people would call this purple rain (due to color), latigo, or salome in reference to its thick long canes. Europeans and Americans liked the smell as it would somehow smell like raspberry.

sanggumay orchid
different color forms of sanggumay orchid

Folklore and Myths

Since the pre-Hispanic times, Sanggumay orchid is widely cultivated on homes and gathered by some native tribes like the Aetas of Pampanga, Rizal, Bulacan, and Quezon. The Zambals from Zambales grow them near the entrance of their homes to ward off evil spirits.  The long canes are made into pouches and ropes. While the flowers are used for offerings to Bathala and other native spirits.  During the Spanish colonial era, these orchids are widely grown on cultivated trees like duhat, macopa, lansones, narras, acacias among others.

Aside from the aesthetic value, the flowers of these orchids are given as leis to visiting important people during its blooming season, offered at altars and used as ornament on processional carriages.

Some Chinese believe that growing them gives bad luck ( feng shui), since the stems/ pseudobulbs are growing downward. Nurseries in Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China would grow the stems upward.

different shades of purple
different shades of purple

Colors Forms

There are different shades of purple, pink , white , semi-albas, huttonii, and javierii.

white colored sanggumay
white colored sanggumay

In some parts of the United States like Hawaii, Florida and Georgia. Sanggumays are widely cultivated and almost naturalized. Hawaiians would call this type of orchid “Hono-Hono“, which refers plant’s growth habit of alternating leaves, very similar to the introduced weed.

Several botanical gardens and orchid center like Kew Gardens in London , England would have several large specimen of these orchids.

Lust and Obsession for Orchid

Some local dealers would rake some profits when they exhibit type of orchid during their blooming season abroad especially in Europe or United States. An orchid with some flowers at an orchid show in France is being retailed at $35 per cane! At a recent local orchid show, a pale pink form was sold for Php 3,000 or at least $60.00. This is just a tip of an iceberg story.

About a decade ago, a big controversy happened when an unusual color variety that was supposedly known as Dendrobium anosmum variety huttonii  at an orchid show exhibit got some of its smaller canes cut or stolen by an orchid addict in broad daylight. The exhibitor got some monetary compensation for the damage to the plant. The sensation brought some fighting and rumors of the supposed rarity which sparked price bidding among orchid collector.  A Filipino-Chinese orchid collector, eventually bought the controversial orchid for more than twice the amount of the market value.

Whether the orchid is really rare or not is still a mystery.  This could rival the story of Orchid Thief 

Rence Chan

writer and contributor

social media writer, food lover, heritage advocate, philatelist , deltiologist , numismatist , notaphilist , toy collector, key chain collector, bibliophile , orchid fancier , plant lover , environmental advocate, freshwater aquarium fish hobbyist, tour consultant, memorabilia and art connoisseur.