Vanilla planifolia, is indigenous to Mexico, where it is pollinated by tiny humming birds and a bee called Melipona . When it was transplanted to other parts of the world it did not produce beans until it was discovered that the small orchid blooms could be pollinated by hand.
The vines grow around trees and when the flowers fall, the bean stops growing, thus it is very important to keep the flower from falling. That is why in Mexico, it was grown under the jungle canopy to protect it from high winds and hurricanes common to the tropics. It is important not to over pollinate the vine because this will dry it out and kill it.
The Totonacas people of this region still grow vines with almost religious devotion because to them it was the gift of the gods. It is not uncommon to have a few vines growing around their houses, which they water every day as if their were their most valuable possession. Also they make with the beans all kinds of crafts such as frogs, baskets, little houses, etc. which people hang in the rearview mirror of their cars as an air purifier with a very artistic twist. In the linen closets of Veracruz, it is very common to find a few beans among the bedding sheets. Pillow cases from this closets have a fragrance that relaxes the senses and makes amorous hearts where there were none, just as the gods wanted.
* The Vanilla Planifolia, (the true vanilla, name was used to differentiate from other beans.)