Orchids Bloom on Google To Celebrate Famed Thai Botanist

Google Doodle for the 97th birthday anniversary of Rapee Sagarik. Image: Google
Google Doodle for the 97th birthday anniversary of Rapee Sagarik. Image: Google

BANGKOK — Thai orchids are blooming on the homepage of the world’s largest search engine to celebrate a horticulturist who pioneered commercial orchid cultivation in Thailand.

Google users in Thailand and Vietnam were greeted with a special alteration of the Google logo on Wednesday, where the website paid homage to Rapee Sagarik, a Thai horticulturist and former deputy agriculture minister who dedicated most of his life to the study of orchids.

The Google Doodle features five species of orchids native to Thailand such as the tangerine Ascocentrum curvifolium, the buttery-yellow Paphiopedilum barbigerum, and the bright purple Eulophia spectabilis.

Designer Erich Nagler said he spent a day at a botanical garden in San Francisco in order to draw inspirations for the Doodle.

“I had to study orchids myself in order to get the drawings and the colors of these species correct,” Nagler said in an interview with Google. “I spent the day drawing and coloring. Orchids thrive in very humid conditions, so I was sweating as I was drawing [inside the greenhouse].”

He said he was amazed to learn more than 1,000 species of orchids originate from Thailand. According to the Thai conservation department, at least 1,157 species of orchids have been discovered in Thailand.

Born Dec. 4, 1922, Rapee broke the traditional belief that orchid-growing was a superfluous pastime for the wealthy by researching on the cultivation of orchids to make them it more accessible for farmers to grow commercially.

His efforts were widely recognized domestically and internationally, and Rapee was regularly invited to speak at various orchid conferences and awards from academic community.

A file photo of Rapee Sagarik.
A file photo of Rapee Sagarik.

He founded the Orchid Society of Thailand in 1957 and the country’s first orchid library later in 1993. He served as the president of Kasetsart University from 1975 to 1979 and as the deputy agriculture minister from 1979 to 1980 during Kriangsak Chamanan’s administration.

Rapee died on Feb. 17, 2018 of a bloodstream infection.

Thailand is currently the largest exporter of orchid flowers in the world. Last year’s exports valued 6.81 million U.S. dollars, according to the Department of International Trade Promotion.

Google Doodles are local, temporary changes to Google’s search engine landing page to celebrate holidays, anniversaries and other events. For example, on April 1, 2017, Google published a doodle which celebrated animator Payut Ngaokrachang and the 55th anniversary of Khao Yai National Park.

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