Holy Spirit Plant , a name which, as well as dove plant, has been given to a Central American orchid, peristeria elata, which has large, green, egg-shaped pseudo-bulbs, strongly ribbed leaves 3 ft. or more long, and a flower stem 5 or 6 ft. high, which bears upon its upper portion numerous, nearly globose, white, fragrant flowers. The structure of the flowers in the orchids is quite unlike that with which most persons are familiar; it is sufficient to say here that the stamen or stamens and pistil are curiously united into what is called the column, and refer the reader to Orchids for further description. In many of this family the petals and sepals present the most grotesque and irregular forms, often simulating the appearance of insects; in peristeria, however, the envelopes of the flower are unusually regular and form an almost spherical case of alabaster whiteness, within which is enclosed a delicate little bird with outspread wings. The column in this plant hears so strong a resemblance to a bird as to require scarcely any effort of the fancy to make it appear like a dove, of the form which artists choose in typifying the Holy Spirit. It is not surprising that a plant which to the educated eye is so striking should, to the ignorant and superstitious among the Spanish Americans, appear of some supernatural significance, and be regarded with veneration.
Under the name of el Spirito Santo it is employed in religious festivals in Central America. At the time when the current of travel to California was by the way of Panama, living plants, as well as the flowers preserved in alcohol, were frequently brought home by passengers. It is now not rare in the collections of those who cultivate orchids, though it is not often seen in cultivation with the size and vigor of the plant in its native country.
Holy Spirit or Dove Plant (Peristeria data).