The Wonderful World of Orchids
12 Sep, 2021
It's a fairly large family, that include around 28 000 species. This diverse family has members that grow in a variety of ways, including in the ground (terrestrial orchids), on trees (epiphytic orchids) and on cliffs and on rock or cliffs (lithophytic orchids).
Where do Orchids Grow?
Members of this family can be found naturally the world over, in almost every habitat. Many of these orchids are mainly found in remote and often hard to reach locations.
Did you know that New Zealand has over 160 native orchids?
Orchids range from species whose flowers that last for up to a year to others that only flower for a single day. But regardless of how long the blooms last they all rely on highly specialised and ingenious methods to attract pollinators. Several even mimic the pheromones of the insects they wish to attract.
Cryptostylis ovata - Slipper Orchid attracts this parasitic wasp by emitting a pheromone that mimics the scent of the female wasp.
The flowers themselves produce a somewhat staggering amount of tiny seeds. As any one that realised the vanilla is a type of orchid may have already noticed when they scraped out their tiny and delicious seed. However, creating the seed is only the first part. Unless these tiny seeds come into contact with the certain mycorrhizal fungi they can't germinate in the wild.
An orchid seed germinating. The Seeds themselves don't have enough nutrients to germinate by themselves and rely on the fungi (the fine filaments coming out from the seed) to provide them with the nutrients they need.
To get around this, orchid growers have devised various techniques that can be used to germinate seeds artificially, allowing them to breed a vast array of orchids with truly stunning flowers.
Growing Orchids at Home
One of the best orchids to grow at home is the Moth Orchid (phalaenopsis). When looked after they can flower for up to 6 months at a time, and as long you get a few things right they are incredibly easy to look after.