Orchids are a large family of flowering plants with between 22,000 and 26,000 species. They are found in almost every country except Antarctica.
Colombia and Ecuador have many different species. The Atlantic forest in Brazil has over 1500 species, the mountains in India and China have many species, and Madagascar has many species.
In warm places where there is much grass or dry savanna and rocky fields, orchids have firm underground roots and tubers to protect themselves against cold, snow, or long droughts.
Orchid Facts for Kids
- The Orchid is one of the oldest families of flowering plants
- There are between 22,000 and 26,000 species
- The largest Orchid weighs several hundred pounds
- The smallest Orchid being about the size of a dime
- Once germinated, orchids take about 5-7 years to bloom
- They can live up to 100 years
- Some orchids bloom only briefly, others for months
Orchids have developed complex pollination mechanisms for their long flowering periods. They self-pollinate with pollen delivered in a single mass, and this allows the plant to produce thousands of ovules.
In some specialized orchids, the shape, color, and odor of the flower may attract pollinators via mimicry of a receptive female.
Many neotropical orchids are pollinated by male orchid bees, which visit the flowers to gather volatile chemicals they require to synthesize pheromonal attractants. After pollination, the sepals and petals fade and wilt, but they usually remain attached to the ovary.
Fruits and seeds
Phalaenopsis blossoms ripen into capsules that split along longitudinal slits and blow off like dust particles. After ripening, all orchids rely on fungi to complete their lifecycles.
To germinate orchid seeds in artificial conditions, agar is mixed with banana, pineapple, peach, tomato puree, or coconut milk and poured into test tubes.
Orchids have simple leaves with parallel veins, folded lengthwise along the center (“plicate”), and often have siliceous bodies called stigmata in the vascular bundle sheaths.
The structure of the orchid leaf is determined by the plant’s habitat. Species that grow in sunlight have thick leathery leaves, while shade-loving species have long, thin leaves.
Some orchids have ornamental leaves. Macodes sanderiana has a silver and gold veining on a light green background, and Phalaenopsis schilleriana has pink leaves.
Some orchids lack leaves altogether, such as the ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii), and depend on their green roots for photosynthesis.
The Orchidaceae are well known for their racemose flowers, which can be single, with a racemose inflorescence, or be axillary. The flowering stem can be basal or apical, from the tuber or from the leaf axil.
Types of Orchids
Epiphytic or terrestrial orchids with a cylindrical rhizome from which the fleshy noodle-like roots grow, with upright growth and one or two leaves at the top of them. The inflorescence is a terminal raceme with few or several flowers, and the fruit is a capsule with many small seeds.
The genus Cattleya was named in 1824 by horticulturalists William Cattley, who obtained the type specimen of C. labiata, which was then named C. labiata.
Cymbidium is a genus of flowering plants from the orchid family Orchidaceae. They are epiphytic, lithophytic, terrestrial, or rarely leafless saprophytic herbs, with between three and twelve leaves arranged in two ranks on each pseudobulb or shoot, lasting for several years.
The flowers of Cymbidium are sympodial and have three to twelve leaves arranged in two ranks, a stem arising from the base of the pseudobulb, and the labellum is a modified third petal with three lobes.
Dendrobium is a large genus of epiphytic and lithophytic orchids in the family Orchidaceae. It contains more than 1,800 species that are found in diverse habitats throughout much of south and east Asia.
Dendrobium species are mostly epiphytic or lithophytic and are perennial herbs with cylindrical roots usually arising from the base of a pseudobulb. They are long, narrow, linear, oblong, or cylindrical leaves.
Flowers with different color labels are arranged along an unbranched stem and may be short or long-lived and may be white, green, yellow, or pink to purple.
The genus of Miltonia is an orchid genus comprising twelve epiphyte species and eight natural hybrids. The species of Miltonia are exclusively inhabitants of Brazil, with the exception of one species that is endemic to Argentina.
Miltonia species have large, long-lasting flowers and are popular with orchid collectors, and are extensively used to produce artificial hybrids.
Also called The Venus slipper its a genus of orchids in the family Orchidaceae and is native to Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, southern China, New Guinea, and the Solomon and Bismarck Islands.
Paphiopedilum species are terrestrial orchids that grow robust shoots, each with several leaves that produce a raceme between the fleshy, succulent leaves. Potted plants form a tight lump of roots that can be up to 1 m long.
Phalaenopsis, commonly known as moth orchids, is a genus of orchids native to India, Taiwan, China, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and Australia.
Orchids in the genus Phalaenopsis are monopodial epiphytes hidden by overlapping leaf bases, with long, coarse roots and short, leafy stems with a few too many small, flat, often fragrant flowers arranged on racemes or panicles.