Moth Orchid — Diversity
One of the most diverse plant species on earth is the orchid family. Each orchid has specific attributes of shape, color, size, and patterns, which allow it to thrive in its unique ecosystem.
Truly speaking, there are no other plant species as diverse as the orchids. With over 25,000 species adapted to a vast array of habitats, orchids range in size from about 2 millimeters wide to 10 feet across, and some are incredibly short, while others grow up to 20 feet tall. There are even a few species that have adapted to growing underground, with only the flower stalks sprouting above ground for pollination.
The shape of orchids changes dramatically, depending on factors such as habitat, and type of pollinator. Orchids are rarely found individually in the wild, since pollen transfer by other organisms is required for their reproduction. From deserts to alpine mountains, swamps, grasslands, tropical rain forests, and even the Arctic tundra, orchids proliferate due to remarkable strategies for survival, which they have evolved in order to attract birds, bees, and other animals for distribution of pollen. Many of these strategies involve tricking pollinators by appearing to offer a reward—food or a mate—which the plant does not provide.
The diversity of orchids in shape, color, and pattern is directly owed to bees and other pollinating insects, partially due to the fact that different pollinators gather pollen on different parts of their bodies, and thus transfer it to certain orchids at specific spots. This diversity also correlates to adaptability: orchids are among the most adaptable plants on earth, relying on both pollinating animals and mycorrhizal fungi for early diversification.
Orchid plants are classified under the division Magnoliophyta, which represents flowering seed plants. The taxonomic class is Liliopsida, placing orchids in the same class as the monocotyledonous (flowering with a single seed leaf) lilies and grasses. They are grouped under the family Orchidaceae of the order Asparagales. Because of their adaptability to varied climatic conditions, orchids are next to grasses in distribution.
Interesting Facts about Orchid Plants
· The name Orchid comes from the Greek word “orchis” meaning testicle; because of the shape of the bulbous roots.
· Each year botanists find nearly 200 new orchid species, primarily in the Tropics.
· The moth orchid, Phalaenopsis (fa-le-NOP-sis), is the most popular houseplant. Other popular types include dendrobium, vanda, the slipper orchid, or paphiopedilum (paff-eeo-PEDDY-lum) and cymbidium (sim-BIDDY-um).
· Orchids can last 2-3 weeks cut and over a month on the plant.
· Orchid flowers can grow to be as small as a head of a pin (Platystele sp. Central America) or greater at 10 feet across (Grammatophyllum sp., New Guinea).
· Vanilla comes from the fruit of the vanilla planifolia orchid.
· Confucius acknowledged the wonder of orchids, saying, “The association with a superior person is like entering a hall of orchids.”