November Speaker: Gary Meyer, Ph.D. – Gods and Monsters
Gary Meyer’s interest in orchids began when he was a freshman in high school in Michigan. He had already replaced much of his dad’s beloved lawn with hundreds of perennials and North American native plants, partly in an attempt (futile, unfortunately) to attract hummingbirds. Among this plant collection were several cypripedium species, which ignited his curiosity about orchids from other parts of the globe. He found a photograph of Masdevallia vietchiana in a library book that rendered him helpless to resist the pull to Pleurothallids. Shortly thereafter, he laid eyes on a line drawing of Dracula chimaera in a J & L Orchids catalog, and has been enslaved by draculas ever since. Gary started growing draculas in his parents’ basement in 1990, with some degree of success.
However, college, then medical school, and finally graduate school became unavoidable distractions for him. By the time he finished his Ph.D. in neuroscience in 2003, he thought he had managed to completely kick the orchid addiction. In February 2003, Gary moved from Ann Arbor, MI to San Francisco, CA, andwithin two weeks of his arrival, found himself face to face with a pure yellow Dracula gorgona xanthina (owned by John Leathers) at the Pacific Orchid Exposition. The addiction was immediately revived, stronger than ever. Thirteen years later, Gary now has several hundred dracula plants in Pacifica, CA (along with a reasonable dose of masdevallias, lepanthes, cyrtochilums, and anguloas).
Gary has been travelling to Colombia and Ecuador once or twice a year since 2005 to observe draculas in the wild and visit collections of South American dracula growers. He has also been putting his science background to work, studying the molecular taxonomy of the genus with Ken Cameron, Ph.D., director of the herbarium at the University of Wisconsin, and describing new species in conjunction with his South American colleagues. By day, Gary is a Director of Clinical Analytics at IntrinsiQ, LLC, where he tracks the oncology pharmaceutical industry. He is currently President of the Pleurothallid Alliance, and owner of Colombian Orchid Imports, which imports orchid species from Colombia for sale in the United States.
Gary’s talk, Gods and Monsters, will be something of a deviation from the typical orchid talk. Since Halloween is right around the corner, this talk will delve into the mythology behind the monstrous and spooky names used for dracula species.