Orchids are one of the pioneer species on the planet. They are said to have existed way back when dinosaurs roam the earth. There are now over 30,000 species of orchids and many more hybrids of this awe-inducing flower. They are one of the most diverse flower types and have an amazingly large plant family to boot.
The name “orchid” is derived from early Greek “Orchis-an” and is a reference to the way the orchid kind of looks a little “testicular” if you get my drift! However, orchids grow all over the world with the most economically useful orchid coming from Central America and Mexico. This orchid is the Vanilla Planifolia and is the source of vanilla flavoring (did you know that?!?). We have the Aztecs to thank for figuring out how to get vanilla out of the Vanilla Planifolia. Now Madagascar in Africa is the world’s largest producer of the “Vanilla Orchid” and vanilla and Coca Cola is their biggest consumer.
Photos of the earliest rare orchids in Asian art circa 700 BC have induced awe amongst it’s audience. Orchids were recorded in many herbalist and medicinal documents and many cultures believed that orchids have special healing powers. These orchids have come a long way from being just a wild flower that grew on trees to being one of the most popular and beloved bloom in the worlds of flora.
Charles Darwin and Rare Orchids
Orchids were the perfect flower specimen for Charles Darwin to study when he was formulating the theory of natural selection. He focused on the Angreacum Sesquipidales and documented its pollination cycles. He predicted that when this orchid species gave off a strong scent at night, the insect that pollinated it would be a moth, because of the orchid’s bright white color made it look like a light in the dark. Sure enough Darwin’s theory proved right a moth came along and was instrumental in pollinating the Angreacum Sesquipidales. Pretty cool the tricks of nature.
Orchids have such creative ways to reproduce and that is the reason there are now so many species of their kind (at last count, there are over 35,000). There are those orchids that rely on wind pollination while others rely on crawling insects and then some, on flying insects.
A clever use of the flying insects will prove that orchids are tricky flowers. The clever rare Bee Orchid lures bees to its flowers by its natural disguise. This orchid resembles a female receptive bee which entices a male bee towards its pollinia. Other orchids have long stems that look as if they are butterflies dancing in the wind.
All in all orchids are ancient flowers that are even more fascinating today than at any time in history. Growing, cultivating, breeding and displaying orchids in one’s home and/or greenhouse is a continuous source of joy for many people all over the world.