Orchids

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate September 2001

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Orchids                 The Orchid is one of the largest groups of flowering plants in the world. It isgrown everywhere except Antarctica and some of the most arid desert zones of WestAsia. This large group of flower, family Orchidae, has a number of species thatvary from 15,000 to 25,000! That's a lot!                        Orchids have fascinated people since early times. They have been the symbolof love, luxury, and beauty for centuries. Greeks looked at them as a symbol ofvirility. The Chinese, as long ago as the time of Confucius, called orchids "The Plantof the King's Fragrance." In the middle ages, orchids played a major role in herbalremedies. They were also regarded as an aphrodisiac and have been one of the mainingredients in certain love potions. When orchids appear in a dream, theysupposedly represent a deep inner need and desire to keep gentleness, delicacy, andromance in ones relationship.

                By the start of the 18th century orchid collecting was firmly established inmany parts of the world.

Because of their attractive unusual flowers andintoxicating fragrances. A few orchids were brought back from far off lands byBritish sea captains in the 18th century. They remained curiosities for a handful ofbotanists and wealthy amateurs. This all changed in 1818, when a man by the nameof William Cattley bloomed the first Cattleya. The strange thing about this wholeevent was he had been unpacking plants he had shipped in (not orchids), he noticedthese strange plants that had been used as packing material. He potted some of themup and in November, one of the Cattleyas bloomed. The flower world has neverbeen the same, it is still feeling the impact of that single plant.

                Entire forests were stripped of millions of orchids. Almost all collecting oforchids are now banned. Many are on the "endangered lists." Species are now beingcultivated from seed. Orchids have been cultivated in Europe for 250 years.

                Orchids and their allies are distinguished from other flowering plants by acombination of floral characteristics rather than by a single characteristic. Orchidflowers are born on stalks called pedicels. During the growth and development ofthe flower, however, the pedicel rotates 180°, so that the mature orchid flower isborn upside down! Of the flower's three sepals and three petals, all the sepals andthe two lateral petals are usually similar to one another in color and shape. Theremaining petal, always different from the others, is called the labellum, or lip. Thelabellum is usually larger, different in color and shape, and often being lobed orcupped. The labellum, which often acts as a landing platform for the orchidpollinator, may attract the pollinator to the flower through particular color patternsand shapes to which the pollinator responds in particular ways! The pollinatorresponds to the color and shape of the labellum!                The sexual organs, the piston and stamen, of the orchid flower are fusedtogether into a structure called the column, which lies opposite the labellum.

Orchids have only one stamen, and in most orchids it bears only one anther, whichis a pollen producing structure. In a few orchids, however, two anthers areproduced. The pollen is not granular, as it is in most flowering plants, but is puttogether in a number of sacs that vary in texture from smooth to rough. Threestigmatic lobes are usually present and located near the anther, although only twoare functional. The ovary is below the other flower parts and is surrounded bypedicel tissue. The seeds are very small, and as many as 2 million seeds may beproduced from a single orchid seedpod. Unlike most other flowering plants, orchidshave no food-storage tissue.

                Orchid flowers are can be pollinated by flying animals, and their diversity instructure has resulted from adaptations to various pollinators. About half theorchid species are pollinated by bees. Other pollinators moths, butterflies, flies, andbirds. Many orchid flowers are adapted for pollination by a single species of insect.

They also control when their fragrance is at it's peak.

                Apart from their phenomenal popularity among horticulturists, orchids havelittle economic importance, although vanilla flavoring is obtained from fruits of onespecies, the Mexican vanilla, widely grown in tropical areas. Orchids not only growin tropical rain forest trees, many species actually grow on rocks. Terrestrialorchids grow in meadows, woodlands, and on mountain sides. Growers haveproduced thousands of new forms of orchids through hybridization.

                In conclusion, Orchids are amazing plants. There are so many species of thisplant that there must be more. I have learned that these fascinating plants are verydelicate, but are beautiful specimens. And from what I have read from myresources, the Orchid is an addictive plant to grow. Orchids are amazing!        From my studies, I believe that all biology students should have to groworchids for the fun of it. It seems like a hard task, but sounds very rewarding.

Though I know teachers wouldn't spend time on orchids, they should do this as aproject of the course of a semester. And could reflect as a grade or extra credit as apart of the final exam or final grade. That is my comment on orchids.