Butterflies Flowers Orchids



Photos taken in the Butterfly House on Mainau Island

May 2007



Botanical orchid is a loose term to denote mainly small flowered tropical orchids belonging to several genera (not necessarily related to each other) that don't fit into the "Florist" orchid category. A few of these genera contain enormous numbers of species. Some, such as Pleurothallis and Bulbophyllum, contain approximately 1700 and 2000 species, respectively, and are often extremely vegetatively diverse. The primary use of the term is among orchid hobbyists wishing to describe unusual species they grow, though it is also used to distinguish naturally occurring orchid species from horticulturally created hybrids.



The Orchids (Orchidaceae) are among the most diverse plant families. They get their name from the Greek Orchis, testicles, from the appearance of the pseudobulbs in some terrestrial species. Roughly 30,000 species have been described, and at least 60,000 more hybrids have been bred by horticulturalists. They are monocotlydons, with flowers composed of 6 petals, one of which is modified into a "lip". Ranging in size from tiny Caribbean Epidendrons (3 inches) to massive Gramatophyllums (20 feet+) in New Guinea, their beauty and sophistication have captivated man.


Most orchids are epiphytic, residing on tree limbs without parasitizing resources (as Mistletoes do). Others live on the ground, in shaded places often. Almost all the species rely heavily upon mycorhizal associations with various fungi that decompose surounding matter, freeing up water-soluble nutrients. Most orchid seeds are extremely tiny, with no food reserves, and will not even germinate without such symbiosis to supply nutrients in the wild. Techniques have now been devised for germinating seeds on a nutrient-containing gel, eliminating the necessity of the fungus, and greatly aiding the propagation of rare and endangered species.


It is in their reproductive methods that Orchids truly shine. The Paphiopedilums (Lady Slippers) have a deep pocket that traps visitors, with just one egress that leads to pollination. A Eurasian genus has flowers that look so much like female bumble bees that males flying nearby are irresistably drawn in. An underground orchid in Australia never sees the light of day, but manages to dupe ants into pollinating it. The Masdevalia stinks like a rotting Carcas, and the forest flies it attracts assist its reproduction. A species Darwin discussed briefly actually launches its pollen sacks with incendiary force when prompted. Some Phalaenopsis species in Malaysia use subtle weather cues to coordinate mass flowering.


There are a great number of tropical and subtropical orchids, and these are the most commonly known, as they are available at nurseries and through orchid clubs across the world. There are also quite a few orchids which grow in colder climates, although these are less often seen on the market.

Text from Wikipedia






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