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  HOME AND GARDEN Orchids

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 Orchids (By Mary Efanti)

What are Orchids anyway?

What are orchids

The orchids family consists of approximately 30,000 different species, but if we take into consideration the hybrids growers all over the world have and are still developing, their number probably exceeds 200,000. They are found in every continent, the only exception being the Antarctic and there are endemic species in every part of the world. 

Orchids are epiphytes, which means plants that grow on other plants. This was the most challenging fact the first growers had to face. Nowadays, we know that epiphytes live "stuck" on the branches of trees in tropical forests, attached to them through a strong root system; in fact the roots do not touch the soil. Instead the roots are literally in the air with the morning dew being their primary source of water in their natural habitat with rains coming right after that. The birds that fly and rest on the branches provide plenty of nutrients through their stool (out of which the roots absorb their food). 

In the world of flowers, orchids are definitely the winners. Although they used to be expensive plants, today orchids are affordable to all and growing them is one of the most loved hobbies among flower lovers. Their incredible beauty and the numerous differentiations among species excite us all.

If you are reading this article you definitely love flowers and admire orchids. However, if you have not yet started to grow orchids you are missing out on one of the prettiest gifts nature has to offer.

History

Orchids were always exciting to people. They have constituted for centuries, and still do, a symbol of love, luxury and beauty. Our own ancestors considered them a symbol of virility and fertility. The Chinese, ever since the age of Comfucius, called them the plants that had the fragrance of the king, while in the middle ages orchids were one of the basic ingredients of herbal remedies. They were also considered to be aphrodisiacs and thus a basic ingredient in love potions. In dreams, orchids represent your inner need to have finesse, kindness and romance in your relationships. 

In the beginning of the 18th century, orchid harvest was started in many parts of the world. Because of the unusual beauty of their flowers and their intoxicating fragrances, some British explorers brought orchids from the far-off (at the time) lands, at some point during the 18th century. A few botanists started to cultivate them in Britain along with some wealthy hobbyists. The situation changed dramatically in 1818, when a Mr Cattley managed to get his orchid to bloom. He had actually salvaged this plant from a package he received into which the orchids were used as packing material. His name was given to a whole category of plants and has been maintained until today (Cattleya orchids). 

The great demand in orchids lead to the destruction of huge habitat areas in which plants were harvested. Happily today, harvesting plants from their natural habitat is strictly prohibited especially since some orchid varieties belong to the endangered species.

Description

How can someone describe orchids? Which words to use in order to describe their numerous strange forms and how to give an idea of the wonderful fragrances of many species?

Their extra-strange flowers look so complex while in reality their structure is very simple. The flowers consist of 3 sepals and 3 main petals, the middle petal is differentiated taking a specific form that looks like a lip. 

One more peculiarity of the orchids, is that there are no female and male plants as all the reproductive organs co-exist on each plant. The fragrance has the only aim to attract the insects which will pollinate the plant. Nature has made orchids smart enough to control the strength of their fragrance. Some species are exclusively pollinated through night moths so their fragrance is stronger during the night. An extra advantage of the flowers is their longevity.

Orchids do not grow exclusively in rain forests, as most people believe. On the contrary, there are varieties that grow in barren rocky areas (using the rocks to hold on to, the same way as they use the branches of trees in tropical forests) while there are also varieties endemic to plains, conifer forests and mountain slopes. Endemic species exist in our country as well as in the wider Mediterranean area or any other corner of the world. In Greece, we often spot the Bee orchid, among other wild flowers during the spring months. 


Mary Efanti
mefanti@otenet.gr

 

 

 

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Orchids

What are Orchids anyway?
Growing Orchids At Home

 

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