You say orchid, I say Joaquim

The Vanda Miss Joaquim is Singapore's national flower, appropriately for a city that's a hodgepodge of ethnicities, since it's a natural hybrid (of Vanda hookeriana and Vanda teres). But here's the part I never did figure out: how do you pronounce "Joaquim"? Apparently Agnes Joaquim was a member of Singapore's small Armenian community, but that gives me no sense as to whether I should pronounce the name "JOE-kim" as I've always heard around here, or "wah-KIM", as in Spanish names (as in Joaquim Phoenix, even though I think he isn't Latino).

Of course, the right answer is "you pronounce any surname the way the person wants it to be pronounced" - if your last name is "Smith" and you want it to be pronounced "Tan", more power to you. But unfortunately I don't know anyone with the last name Joaquim in Singapore, so there's no way of using that avenue to clear up the question.

So I sent out an e-mail to Bert Vaux, linguistics professor and editor of the Annual of Armenian Linguistics. His response:
That's definitely not an Armenian name, so I would do it in the Spanish or Portuguese way (the two are different, I believe) depending on where the person is from.
Interesting, I hadn't considered that the Portuguese pronunciation might be different. A little bit more poking around the Inta-Net points to the fact that Joaquim is likely to be a Portuguese surname (not surprising, given the strong Portuguese presence in this region - many Eurasians in Singapore have a Portuguese last name), so I guess it's probably pronounced something like zhwa-KIM (following the pronunciation of Joaquim in Brazilian names) assuming, of course, that no anglicisation of the pronunciation occurred. Hmm.

Site of Agnes Joaquim's tombstone.


Sivasothi said…
Hi Daryl,

Vandda Miss Joaquim is not a natural hybrid but a deliberate cross made by Agnes Joaquim, who was an accomplished horticulturist; see

And follow the link to Nadia Wright's article.
Daryl said…
Thanks very much! The natural hybrid thing seems to have passed into general use, so I'm glad that you pointed out research stating otherwise.

To make it easier for anyone else who happens to be interested in the origins of species (well, one species, in this case), here's sivasothi's link in clickable form.
Sivasothi said…
Hi Daryl,

I was hasty in suggesting the argument for artificial as opposed to a natural hybrid. There is a more reading to do before arriving to such a conclusion and I'll keep you posted. Cheerio!

Anonymous said…
All orchid scientists and knowledgeable orchid growers believe that Vanda Miss Joaquim is a natural hybrid which arose in Miss Agnes Joaquim's garden.
Nadia Wright, who wrote a book on the Armenians in Singapore, an article on the Armenians in Penang and two articles on Vanda Miss Joaquim is not an orchid expert by any stretch of the imagination. She is an amateur historian whose writings tend toward Armenian nationalism and feminism in general.
As far as I know her strongest supporters in Singapore are Harold 'Roby' Johnson and Dr. John Elliott, both hobby growers.
For details see:
1. Hew, C. S., T. W. Yam and J. Arditti. 2002. Biology of Vanda Miss Joaquim. National University of Singapore Press.
Dr. C. S. Hew is Professor of Botany, National University of Singapore (retired, a (plant scientist who devoted his entire career to orchids)
Dr. T. W. Yam is Seniour Research Officer, Singapore Botanic Gardens (orchid breeder, physiologist and historian).
Dr. Joseph Arditti is Professor Emeritus of Biology, University of California, Irvine (plant scientist who devoted his entire career to orchids and considers Singapore as his second home).
2. The 2005 issue of the Malayan Orchid Review (Singapore).
3. The April-June issue of the Orchid Review (UK).
4. Teoh, E. S. 1982. A joy forever, Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore's Ntional flower, 1st ed. Times Books International. Singapore.
5. Teoh, E. S. 1998(?). A joy forever, Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore's Ntional flower, 2st ed. Times Books International, Singapore.
Dr. E. S. Teoh is a physician and a very knowledgeable orchid grower in Singapore.

Joseph Arditti

Dr. Joseph Arditti, Professor Emeritus
University of California, Irvine, CA 92604
Anonymous said…
Professor Arditti claims that ‘All orchid scientists and knowledgeable orchid growers believe that Vanda Miss Joaquim is a natural hybrid which arose in Miss Agnes Joaquim's garden. This is simply not true. Ridley, Rolfe, Laycock, Rentoul and Yeoh are amongst those who acknowledge Agnes Joaquim as the breeder.

To claim my writings ‘tend toward Armenian nationalism and feminism in general’ is also quite unfounded. I would certainly like to see proof of this claim! I suspect the professor is attacking the messenger as he is unable to refute my arguments. The book he has co-authored on Vanda Miss Joaquim contains a number of errors, and also uses unscholarly practices such as the engineering of quotations. These can mislead the reader.

Why he totally believes the reminiscences of an 88 year-old man, yet refuses to believe eminent botanist Henry Ridley is quite unfathomable.

Henry Ridley’s words were ‘ A few years ago, Miss Joaquim, a lady residing in Singapore, well-known for her success as a horticulturalist, succeeded in crossing Vanda Hookeriana Rchb.f., and V. teres…’ Gardeners’ Chronicle 24 June 1893 p.740

This is unambiguous. And cannot be rejected on the grounds of nationalism or feminism. Nadia Wright
Anonymous said…
Ridley did not provide any scientific evidence for his statement. Rentoul is an Australian hobby grower. Rolfe simply quoted Ridley in general terms. Laycock, a hobby grower had questions about how the seeds were germinated. These are important questions and must be answered if we are to accept the claim the Miss Angess Joaquim produced the hybrid intentionally. He also said it would not be proper to question a lady. He did not state with certainty the Miss Agnes Joaquim produced the hybrid. Yeoh who was a hobby grower said that it would be ungallant to question a lady, but then changed his mind and said later that the hybrid was probably natural. Thus the statements stands: "Most well informed growers and scientists believe that Vanda Miss Joaquim was a natural hybrid."
All one needs do to find Ms Wright's nationalism and feminism is read her writings.
Ms Wrights arguments have all been refuted very effectively and completely in our book as well as in articles in the Orchid Review and the Malayan Orchid Review. Her arguments are easy to refute because they are devoid of orchid science, are not logical and tend to present truncated quotes or partial truths.
The book about Vanda Miss Joaquim does contain a errors, most of them typographical. This is common for books. There are no unscholarly practices.
Given the paucity of data presented by Ridley his statement can and should be questioned. Also the available evidence suggests that he and Miss Agnes Joaquim probably never met and therefore he could not have obtained any imformation from her. The herbarium specimen prepared by Ridley states Joe Joawuim, not Miss Agnes Joaquim brought the plant.
I believe the scientific evidence which tends to support the 88 year old man who was Miss Agnes Joaquim's nephew and not Ms Wright. Also he had no agenda, but she does
Anonymous said…
"The book he has co-authored on Vanda Miss Joaquim contains a number of errors, and also uses unscholarly practices such as the engineering of quotations. These can mislead the reader."
If we are to talk about books let it be known that our book was published by a prestigious peer reviewed academic publisher. After pubication it was reviewed favorably in the Plant Science Bulletin (an organ of the Botanical Society of America) and several orchid magazines.
On the other hand Ms Wright's book on tne Armenians in Singapore, Respectable Merchants was self published. I know that one publisher considered the book and did not publish it. I was also told by a second hand source (but not given proof) that other publishers considred the book and passed on it. Peer reviewed publishers have rigorous standards and are impartial. Their acceptance or rejection of books say something about the quality and contents of each work. Books published by them carry weight and have prestige. They reject manuscripts which do not pass review and/or are not very good. A self published magnum opus, just like books published by vanity presses (publishers who will publish any book as long as he author pays for it), does not carry much if any weight or prestige in academic and/or learned circles even if it may appeal to a partisan audience and feed its author's ego.
"the professor is attacking the messenger."
In this case the messenger is the message. The message was concieved, manufactured, produced and distributed by the messenger. Nothing and no one is being attacked. What is being questions and criticized is an agenda driven claim which is scientifically unproven, based on inacurrate statements about orchid biology and supported by truncated quotes as well as incorrect historical facts. These are all listed and supported with numerous citations in an article in the Malayan Orchid Review and in a shorter less detailed article in the Orhid Review (UK) as well as in our book.
Anonymous said…
"unscholarly practices such as the engineering of quotations."
There is not a single "engineered" quotation in the book. As required by scholarly writing a source is given for each quatation so that readers can check or follow up as they wish. What this assertion shows is that Ms. Wright does not even have the remotest idead what constitutes a scholarly quotation and is simply grasping for barbs to throw at those who have pointed to some of the many weaknesses and falacies of her nationalist argument. The reason why I am replying to Ms. Wright in bits and pieces is that I am traveling at this time and manage to write my replies in airports, airplanes and hotels as time and internet connections allow. More to come if/as needed.
Anonymous said…
I would direct attention to the historical account of the origin of Vanda Miss Joaquim in the Malayan Orchid Review, 2004, page 99ff.

I would also draw attention to Dr. Elliot's comments on page 55 of the same.

Check the library and Select Books for copies. Available for sale by post at
Anonymous said…
Hello Daryl:
History reveals that many individuals who dared to question accepted ‘truths’, were then vilified and mocked by those who would not accept the findings of new research.

I feel Professor Arditti’s blusterings, unfounded denials and accusations are a ploy to deflect attention from the fact that he has not been able to refute Ridley’s statement that Agnes Joaquim bred the orchid.

Interested readers could go to my website which currently contains a reprint of my original article (2000) along with a substantiated rebuttal of Professor Arditti’s criticisms. They could then decide just who used engineered quotes, truncated quotes and poor referencing. Nadia Wright
Anonymous said…
One only need read Ms Wright's writings (book, articles, newpapers story) to become convinced beyond any doubt that that she is a nationalist with an agenda.
Ms. Wright's claims and rebuttals have been refuted very effectively. They are easy to refuse because they are devoid of science and based on tenuous logic. There is not even a single orchid scientist in the world today who accepts her views. And I only know of two hobby growers in Singapore who do.
Ridley provided no evidence to support his statement which is therefore open to questions in accordance to accepted scientific and scholarly practices. Given these questions one must go to science and orchid biology which leave no doubt that Vanda Miss Joaquim is a natural hybrid.
Until Ms Wright can provide scientific evidence to support her dubious theory her claims will remain unacceptable to scientists. For all I care she can also claim that water can flow uphil and that the earth is flat.
Anonymous said…
Mr. Johnson and Dr. Elliott (not a botanist) are both amateur growers and the only two I know of who accept Ms Wright views. The same issue of the Malayan Orchid Review contains three other articles (two by knowledgeable growers and one by my colleagues and myself) which refute Ms Wright's and Mr. Johnson's claims very thoroughly and very effectively by providing scientific and horticultural evidence and many citations. I do recommend reading Mr. Johnson's article because it is very amusing.
"History reveals that many individuals who dared to question accepted ‘truths’, were then vilified and mocked by those who would not accept the findings of new research."
Accepting new valid research is one thing, believing in agenda driven nationalist claims based on fancy is another. Regardless, it is interesting to note that Ms. Wright has decided to join the ranks of greats like Galileo and Pasteur. I am not including Darwin in the list because I am not a bishop and my name is not Wilberforce. I am only a lowly Professor Emeritus who has spent an entire career doing scientific research on orchids and publishing my findings in peer reviewed journals and books rather than self publishing them. I also believe in Kwan Koriba's dictum that "There is no nationality in the field of science" (and art and classical music). Also, Ms. Wright's supporters do not include anyone named T. H. Huxley (the so called "Darwin's bulldog" who challenged Wilberforce).
Anonymous said…
Hello Daryl:
I recommend that viewers read the articles mentioned by Professor Arditti and judge for themselves which are the more credible.

To return to primary sources, where good history begins: ‘ A few years ago, Miss Joaquim, a lady residing in Singapore, well-known for her success as a horticulturalist, succeeded in crossing Vanda Hookeriana Rchb.f., and V. teres…’ Henry Ridley, Gardeners’ Chronicle, 24 June 1893 p.740.

Professor Arditti is attacking Ridley’s words and cannot justify why. Nadia Wright.
Anonymous said…
This was amusing for a while but has lost its novelty since Ms. Wright is now repeating herself. No one is attacking Ridley. I am only doing what scientists usually do which is to question each other all he time.
No matter, this has now run its course. My nearly half a century experience in academic life in a major university suggests that the arguments will soon die out and will be forgotten. So will Ms. Wright who has now had more than her 15 minutes of fame. When, sometime in the future, people will want to know about Vanda Miss Joaquim they will read our book and a forthcoming review article which will be published in an American peer reviewed publication because my collegaues and I are well known orchid authorities. Ms Wright is not, even if her nationalist writings may have earned her fame within the Armenian community and recognition by two hobby growers in Singapore.
Both our book and the peer reviewed publication can be found in the libraries of many universities in the US and elsewhere. These libraries will most probably not acquire Ms Wright's magnum opus because libraries do not usually purchase books which are self published or published by vanity presses. Such books do not command academic respect and credibility since the assumption is that if they were worthwile, they would have been published by a major and reputable peer reviewed publisher. A few libraries may recieve Ms. Wright's book as gifts, but no one will think to look for information about an orchid in an Armenian nationalist tract. Those interested in orchids will look for publications by well known orchid experts and other scientists. And sadly for Ms Wright, they all agree with us. The Orchid Review is found in some libraries and so is the Malayan Orchid Review, but we have effectively refuted the claims Ms Wright's made in these publications. Thus, the end result of all this will be that despite Ms. Wright's fleeting moment of fame, our view will prevail in the long run and scientists and knowledgeable growers will still believe, as they should on the basis of good orchid science, that Vanda Miss Joaquim is a natural hybrid.
Ms Wright's "new research" is not new and she has not discovered any new facts. She is simply rehashing what has been in the literature for a long time and giving is a new twist which is designed to serve her nationalist agenda.
And a final point: The Armenian people have many figures they and other nationalities can and should be proud of (three that come easily to mind in an airport lounge are American writer William Saroyan, Soviet era composer Aram Khachaturian and American plant physiologist Abraham D.Krikorian, but there are many more). They do not need a heroine contrived by Ms Wright. Miss Agnes Joaquim found the orchid which bears her name and appreciated its value. That is a major contribution by itself. A lesser person would have ignored an isolated plant blooming in a bamboo clump.
The last word should be by Ms Wright. I will no longer reply to her polemics. It is no longer fun to do so because what she claims has been refuted several times over.
Anonymous said…
Hello Daryl:
On historical and scientific grounds Professor Arditti’s story of the orchid’s discovery is indefensible. He claims ‘the plant was first spotted by Miss Agnes Joaquim in her garden in 1893 or a few years (but it is not know [sic] how many) before that. Dr. Teoh described the event in his book: “One morning while Agnes was loitering alone in the garden she came across a new orchid flower nestled in a clump of bamboo.…Agnes could not contain her excitement. Straightaway she took it to the Director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.” - Biology of Vanda Miss Joaquim, Hew, Yam and Arditti p.41

Where is the evidence she was ‘loitering’ or ‘alone’, that it was ‘morning’, that she ‘could not contain her excitement’, and that she immediately took the plant to Ridley?

There is none. This story is imaginary but Arditti accepts it as factual. Because I have challenged this tale, and instead believe Henry Ridley who unambiguously stated that Agnes had bred the orchid, Arditti has unleashed a torrent of unjustifiable personal attacks on me and my work. Me thinks he doth protest too much. Nadia Wright
Anonymous said…
Basil Johannes was only a young child when Agnes Joaquim died. His elder brother, John Johannes, knew his Aunt Agnes quite well and always said that she "crossed 2 orchids to get the Vanda Miss Joaquim", this story was well known in the family and present day relatives are disgusted that Agnes does not get the credit she deserves.
Anonymous said…
I find it very interesting that many of these stories and Miss Agnes Joaquim's portrait did not surface in 1981 when the Singapore press was searching for information about both the orchid and the lady. At that time reporters did interview some or all of the people who now have new stories to tell, new recollections to report and a picture which was not available then to share just in time for Ms. Wright's self published magnum opus. Strangely the new stories and the portrait popped up when Ms Wright started to interview people in an effort to obtain support for her nationalistic tale. Are we "benefiting" from multiple cases of repressed memmory which are being "unrepressed" by Ms. Wright's acumen as an interviewer?
I am commenting on the assumption that the latest anonymous contributor is neither Ms. Wright nor Mr. Johnson. They keep repeating themselves and each other. That is why I see no point in commenting on what they have to say.

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