Definitives: Flowers (Orchids)

Posted on Dec. 27, 2007 by CPO in Latest Stamps
When many of us think of orchids, we think of delicate flowers that thrive only in warm, tropical countries or climatescontrolled greenhouses. These were also stamp designer Sophie Lafortune's thoughts before she began her research for a new set of stamps featuring Canadian orchid hybrids. Lafortune soon discovered that orchids live in a wide range of environments in every continent-with the exception of Antarctica.

Throughout the ages, these flowers have played varying roles in different cultures. Among other things, they've represented virility to the ancient Greeks, been used as aphrodisiacs in medieval times and appeared as exotic ingredients in Asian recipes. The Vanilla planifolia, native to Mexico and Central America, is the chief source for the popular baking ingredient, vanilla.

Of the tens of thousands of orchid species that have been identified in the world, about 80 of these can be found living in Canada in areas extending from Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia.

"It was interesting to learn that many orchids actually thrive in Canada," says Lafortune, who along with design partner Monique Dufour and Montréal artist Sigmond Pifko, brought four orchid species to life on this new set of definitives. Issued on December 27, 2007, this lovely quartet of stamps features a PERMANENT™ stamp, a U.S. rate (96¢), an oversized ($1.15), and an international rate ($1.60) stamp.

"These particular orchids were chosen based on variation in shape, size and colour-as well as the region in which they grow in Canada, says Lafortune. Each stamp shows two angles of the flower, a profile and a front view that help do justice to the beauty, uniqueness and complexity of the flowers. "Pifko's beautiful original illustrations enabled us to capture the intricate details of each flower better than photography could," says Lafortune.

Creating gorgeous flower and plant works of art for stamp designs is not new for Pifko, whose beautiful illustrations have adorned many Canada Post issues in the past. Most recently, these stamps have included the series of Flowers definitives issued on December 19, 2006. Pifko created these and the most recent hybrid orchid illustrations on board using a combination of acrylic, guache and watercolour.

The PERMANENT stamp features Odontioda Island Red flowers, which in the spring, exhibit showy eight-centimetre-wide blooms. The parental species of this tenth-generation hybrid are wild New World orchids. The colourful blooms of the Potinara Janet Elizabeth 'Fire Dancer', which appear on the U.S. rate stamp, are influenced in size, colour and shape by four different parents. They are characterized by predominantly yellow blooms with magenta lips that help explain the flower's fiery name.

The oversized rate stamp captures the exquisite Laeliocattleya Memoria Evelyn Light, a delightful hybrid that blooms two to three times per year and has the fragrance of spice, lilies and roses. Completing the set is the Masdevallia Kaleidoscope 'Conni', which appears on the international rate stamp. This winter-spring orchid has a wide range of textures, patterns and colours that change in different light, resulting in the kaleidoscope-like appearance for which the flower is named.

"The rest of the stamp was intentionally kept clean and simple," says Danielle Trottier, Manager of Stamp Design and Production at Canada Post. "A white, rather than coloured or natural background, makes the flowers virtually float and pop out of the frame, especially on white envelopes, ensuring that they are truly the focal point of the stamp."

Collectors will also be interested to know that all four stamps appear on a wonderful souvenir sheet.

Did you know?

  • It is generally agreed that the largest orchid is Grammatophyllum speciosum. A mature plant can weigh up to 900 kilograms (2,000 pounds) and is reputed to produce up to 10,000 flowers in nature.
  • Many countries have adopted different varieties of orchids as their respective national flowers. Some of these nations include Belize (Black Orchid - Encyclia cochleata),Cayman Islands (Wild Banana Orchid - Schomburgkia thomsoniana), Costa Rica ('Guaria Morada' - Cattleya skinneri), Seychelles (Tropicbird Orchid - Angraecum eburneum), Venezuela ('Flor de mayo' - Cattleya mossiae) and Singapore (hybrid Vanda Miss Joaquim).
  • Many tropical orchids grow on trees or rocks as air plants. These types of orchids are called epiphytes. In more temperate zones, such as in parts of India and Australia, orchids grow in soil.
  • Orchids even caught the attention of Charles Darwin who used them as the basis of his acclaimed work: "On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects."

Stamp Specifications

  • Design: Monique Dufour, Sophie Lafortune
  • Dimensions: 24 mm x 20 mm (horizontal)
  • Gum Type: Pressure sensitive
  • Illustration: Pifko
  • Paper Type: Tullis Russell
  • Printer: Lowe-Martin
  • Printing Process: Lithography in 5 colours
  • Tagging: General, 4 sides
  • Quantity: Continuous printing
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  • Product #: 101334
  • Layout: Coil of 100 stamps - Domestic
  • Price: $52.00
  • Denomination: 1 x PERMANENTTM domestic stamp
  • Perforations: simulated perforation on top and bottom
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  • Product #: 101336
  • Layout: Coil of 50 stamps - Oversized
  • Price: $57.50
  • Denomination: 1 x 1.15
  • Perforations: simulated perforation on top and bottom
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  • Product #: 401337145
  • Layout: Souvenir sheet of 4 stamps
  • Price: $4.23
  • Gum Type: P.V.A.
  • Perforations: 13+
  • Printing Process: Lithography in 8 colours
  • Quantity: 320,000
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  • Product #: 401337144
  • Layout: Official First Day Cover
  • Price: $5.23
  • OFDC Cancellation Location: Bloomfield Station, Prince Edward Island
  • Quantity: 23,000
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