Introduction To Orchids
Orchids are a very unique family of flowers; they are the largest family of flowering plants. The orchid has evolved so successfully that there is only one continent in the world where they do not grow naturally – Antarctica. The evolutions of the orchids mean that they have learnt to adapt to each individual environment. During this process of adaptation the orchid has drawn on arachnids, insects, birds and butterflies to ensure its successful pollination. We all have an idea that orchids are a beautiful flower – some are not, however, their achievements of survival still make them worthy of admiration.
The orchid family divides into three sections, Firstly the sympodial; this has developed in dry climates and stores water in swollen stems a sort of ‘pseudo bulb’. The second type is a monopodial; this type of orchid has one upward growing stem, a rhizome, and continually produces new leaves from an apex. This type does not reproduce easily, but if the main stem is damaged it may produce a new young plant from the base. The third and least common type of orchid is the diapodial; it grows in a similar manner to the sympodials, but without the bulbs.
Orchids grow and gather their food and moisture by different means as well. Most orchids attach themselves to trees or twigs, some to rock while the third place themselves more conventionally in soil.
The needs of an orchid are much less than many plants, this has been key to its survival. As with all plants the roots are the means of nourishing the orchid, however, with an orchid the roots have another function, they are the means of the orchid anchoring them self. It is the roots of the epiphytic orchid which holds it to the tree or rock with out which the orchid may perish. These exposed roots will absorb from the atmosphere the necessary moisture for survival; an orchid which is anchored to a tree may also absorb nourishment from the bird droppings or moulds on the bark of the tree.
The orchid is recognized as an exotic plant and has become the obsession of many an avid gardener. The wide variety of orchid plants means that there is a plant to suit almost every environment and if desired anyone can nurture an orchid. The range of orchids is constantly growing and a record of the different types is kept at the Royal Horticultural Society in London. This record contains all the recognized naturally occurring orchids as well as the hybrid orchids. Some orchids are now so rare that they are classified as endangered and protected by law. In the US there are certain orchids which are so rare that if you are caught picking or damaging one it is punishable under both federal and state law!
Orchid hybrids are naturally occurring as well and bred by enthusiasts. The ability of the orchid to evolve means that it is continually changing, it is possible that there are orchid hybrids formed and lost faster than man can record them. This is why the orchid has appealed to so many people; the survival of the orchid captures the imagination and then the sight of its delicate flowers draw people in to its world of wonders.