Add this to the ongoing list of fun facts about the Trump family: Melania Trump has an orchid named after her. The flower is a hybrid orchid known as Rhyncholaeliocattleya Melania Trump, or "Rlc Melania Trump," and it even won an award this weekend.
When you know the context, the fact that this flower exists isn't so bizarre. It was created by Chadwick & Son Orchids Inc., a company that breeds orchids and has a longstanding tradition of naming flowers after the spouses of the two leading presidential candidates during election years. The company gave both Melania Trump and Bill Clinton that honor in 2016. Now Trump's is on public display while Clinton's sits in a private greenhouse.
"Every candidate who didn't make it ... I've got their spouse's flower," company president Arthur Chadwick told Bloomberg. "The Ann Romney is a real stunner, too. My dad is heartbroken that it's never going anywhere."
Chadwick has bred orchids for the four first ladies he's personally met — Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama — and also a range of others. Though his company was only founded in 1989, orchid breeders have been naming flowers after first ladies since 1929 (the first to do so was Joseph Manda Orchid Co., for Lou Henry Hoover). Recently, Chadwick has worked to fill in historical gaps by developing orchids for Edith Wilson, Lady Bird Johnson, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Trump's flower was given top marks in an American Orchid Society competition this weekend, earning one of the society's Highly Commended Certificates. The prize-winning orchid (above) has wide, gaping petals that are mostly fuchsia but also feature a bit of yellow. The new Trump genus doesn't always bloom pink, though: As a hybrid, it comes in a variety of colors, including "apricot, blush, and ... exotic tangerine," according to Bloomberg.
The flower is a hybrid of two cattleya orchids, the Cattleya Bold Swan and the Rhyncholaeliocattleya Chia Lin. "Cattleyas are the most glamorous of all [orchids]," Chadwick told Bloomberg. 'This variety was a fashion statement from the 1920s to 1960s. They're the most visually appealing, and they require significant care."
To name an orchid, developers must comply with the nomenclatural standards of the Royal Horticultural Society. The flower must be an original cross between other orchids, which means that it needs to be bred from seeds. That process takes a long seven years — so Chadwick starts developing his first lady orchids long before he knows who their namesakes will be.
Chadwick assumed the mantle of the first lady orchid tradition starting with Barbara Bush, who served with President George H. W. Bush from 1989 to 1993. Barbara Bush's was also a cattleya hybrid. In the wake of her recent death, the company posted a memorial message on Twitter. "Remembering former First Lady, Barbara Bush, who over the years, wrote two letters to me — for naming her cattleya hybrid and for writing an article about her in Orchids magazine," Chadwick tweeted.
The company also visited Laura Bush, Barbara Bush's daughter-in-law and the wife of President George W. Bush, earlier this year in Dallas to discuss the orchid it had developed for her.
Melania Trump is currently forgoing public appearances while she recovers from kidney surgery. Chadwick says that he hasn't yet shown her the orchid in person but that he plans to do so at some point (he's preparing several Rlc Melania Trumps and staggering their blooming periods so that he can be ready at any time). If she's anything like past first ladies, Trump will be thrilled to see her eponymous plant.
"Each ... [first lady] is genuinely so appreciative to have a flower named after them," Chadwick told swvatoday.com. "Each presentation may last a couple minutes, or you might get 15 minutes with them. But they were all extremely friendly."