Orchids rightly belong to the most beautiful flowers in the world.
Orchids owe their name to the naturalist and philosopher Theophrastus of Lesbos.
In his detailed botanical encyclopedia Historia plantarum, he described the orchid as a plant with testicle-shaped root tubers.
As a result, the orchid first acquired the Greek name Orchis (testis) and later the common plant name orchid.
The botanical name of the “queen of flowers” is Orchidaceae.
Appearance and leaf
There are some specific features that are found in most Orchids.
These include, for example, the distinctive column that each orchid forms.
Also, the pollen grains of the Orchidaceae that combine to form a sticky mass of pollen.
The leaves of the orchids have distinctive leaf veins that have barely discernible transverse lines.
Furthermore, they form tiny seeds that usually do not germinate without symbiotic fungi.
The growth of the leaves is usually in two rows, opposite to the sides or each alternating with the shoot.
However, there are also some orchids that produce only a single leaf.
The shape of the leaves varies from circular, ovate, kidney-shaped, elliptic, oblong, inverted ovate to spear-shaped.
Inflorescence and flower
The inflorescences of the orchid family have both racemose and paniculate shoots and single-flowered shoots.
Depending on the genus, the most common, racemose flower shoots are composed of more than 100 individual flowers.
In addition to the different flower shapes, there is also a precise description of where the individual inflorescences arise.
A distinction is made between the terminal shoot tip, the lateral and the central point at the base of the shoot.
The flowers of the orchid impress like no other plant species with an incredible variety of flower shapes and colors.
Depending on the variety, the flower sizes range from a few millimeters to 20 centimeters.
An extensive color palette of flowers, in shades of pink, white, red, yellow, purple, green and even variegated specimens complete the impressive appearance of Orchidaceae.
Almost all orchidaceae form so-called capsule fruits.
Depending on the genus, the individual capsules differ significantly in shape, size, surface and even color.
Some fruits show rather thicker walls in cross-section, other species are thinner-walled.
Shapes range from round fruits with multiple ribs to triangular formations.
The surface structures also show strong differences depending on the species and show
a spiny, sometimes hairy or warty appearance.
The fruit development of the orchid takes place in the bud stage.
Whereby the fruits are formed from the already formed ovary of the flower.
The fruit accounts have three carpels and light green thickenings, which are located at the bottom of the flower.
Maturation of the nodes occurs as soon as the orchidaceae withers.
When ripening sets in, the fruit bursts open, causing the dry seeds to spread widely through the resulting longitudinal clefts.
Occurrence and distribution
Orchids can be found all over the world, with the exception of Antarctica.
Even above the Arctic Circle, in offshore islands of the South Pole and also in Patagonia there are some specimens of the Orchidaceae to discover.
Europe is home to about 250 different orchid species.
However, the original distribution area of the orchids is in the tropical regions, more precisely in the tropics and subtropics.
About 300 to 350 species are found in Central and South America and the Caribbean islands.
This is followed by tropical Asia with about 250 to 300 species and tropical Africa with an estimated 125 to 150 different specimens.
Oceania has about 50 to 70 genera and Eurasia counts 40 to 60 species.
North America has about 20 to 30 species.
Orchids are excellent for use as decorative plants and for greenery in the home.
But the orchid convinces not only by its beauty.
In addition to its use as a houseplant, the orchid has been used since ancient times as a medicine and stimulant.
It is also used as a perfume, medicine, tea, spice or tobacco substitute.
The Mexican Indian tribe of the Tarahumara, for example, used the leaves of the genus Trichocentrum cebolleta.
The hallucinogen contained in the yellow-brown, spotted petals was used as an intoxicant.
The orchid is also found in homeopathy.
Here the lady’s slipper serves as a proven remedy for sleepless nights and nervous restlessness.
In Arab countries, especially in Turkey, “Salep”, a sweet milk drink made from the flour of the orchid “Orchis morio” is very popular.
The powder of ground orchids is also used for an ice cream called “Maraş ice cream”.
Nowadays, due to the international conservation of orchid plants, the production of these products is made from substitutes.
Among the most famous orchid species is definitely vanilla, with the botanical name Vanilla.
The genus Vanilla planifolia has one of the most important aromas in the world and is mainly used in the food industry.
For the production of perfume or tobacco, the variety Vanilla planisolia is used.
Superstition and interesting facts
Orchid plants have exerted an enormous attraction on mankind for more than 2500 years.
They are used not only as a remedy or for decorative purposes, but also as an aphrodisiac.
They were also used in superstition.
Already the Aztecs paid homage to certain orchid genera as sacred plants and used motifs of the Orchidaceae for their temples.
In Greece, naturalists and poets dedicated detailed treatises to the orchid.
And also in China, the philosopher Confucius was concerned with the purity, beauty and grace of orchidaceae.