Vanilla Orchid

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Plant Description: V. planifolia is a fleshy, perennial vine with green stems. The vines live for many years, and some species reach 60 m (200 ft) in length. The stem diameter increases as the plant matures. Vanilla is semi-epiphytic, meaning it is capable of rooting in the ground and also of growing on other plants without direct soil contact.

Scientific Name: Vanilla planifolia

Common Name: Mesoamerica

Family: Orchidaceae

Origin: Mesoamerica

Distribution: Madagascar leads the world in vanilla production, with Indonesia, Uganda, India, Comoros, Mexico, and other countries significantly contributing to global production. The United States is the largest importer of vanilla beans that are further processed into vanilla extract.

Importance: Vanilla extract is the second most valuable spice (after saffron) and is the world's most popular flavor. Natural vanilla extract comes predominantly from the cured beans of V. planifolia, which is the major commercial species, and to a lesser extent from V. × tahitensis and V. pompona. The aroma and flavor profiles vary for each species and from each growing environment. These differences could be useful for a variety of applications, including as food ingredients, in cosmetics, and others.