Among flowering plants the Orchid family (Orchidaceae) is the biggest. 880 genera (low-level classification for living organisms and fossils) are listed by the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew with 22,000 species recognized. However it is argued by some that there could be as many 25,000 species this is due to classification disputes. The classification of an Orchid is based upon its water requirements.
There are more than double the numbers of Orchid speciesas there are species of birds and approximately 800 Orchid species are added each and every year.
Orchids have been living and growing for more than 100 million years and come in a multitude of shapes and sizes. Three inner and three out petals give Orchids their signature look and they can range from several feet high right down to almost microscopic.
Bulbophyllum (Bulb) is the largest genus of Orchids containing 1,803 species, which also makes it one of the largest genera among plants. Epidendrum (Epi) is the second largest genus and has over 1,100 species. Established by Olof Swartz in 1799 the Dendrobium genus today is made up of approximately 1,200 species. Generally growing near to the equator Dendrobium Orchids are easy to grow but often harder to make bloom. Pleurothallis (Pths) also known as Bonnet Orchids was a huge genus of about 1,200 species until 2004 when further classification decreased its size by over half.
An Orchid genus that most people will have heard of is Vanilla, used as a flavoring the Vanilla Plant originates from Mexico.
It should be noted that since the 19th century when tropical species of Orchids were introduced, more than 100,000 cultivars and hybrids have been produced by enthusiastic horticulturists. Orchids although mainly thought of as tropical flowers actually have the ability to grow in almost any climate.
South East Asia, China, Japan and Australia are where Cymbidium (Cym) Orchids, popular Orchids with beginners, can be found growing naturally. The Cymbidium genus has 52 evergreen species, which are commonly referred to as Boat Orchids. They prefer cooler elevated climates and can grow anywhere from 1 – 1.5 meters.
Growing from Costa Rica to South America the Cattleya (C) genus of Orchids (42 species) are commonly selected for corsages thanks to their “showy” flowers. Although because of their attractiveness many Cattleya Orchids are now becoming endangered due to over collecting.
Vanda and Phalaenopsis Orchids are some of the more easily grown Orchids. Both producing colourful flowers Phalaenopsis are popular at weddings while you are more likely to find Vanda Orchids around the house.
With such a multitude of varieties there is always an Orchid for each and every occasion. It’s thanks to this variety that people get so hooked on growing Orchids, start off with a Cymbidium and then you can progress growing more and more challenging Orchids. Whatever species you grow though you will always be left with one of the most beautiful flowers around.
For more information about Caring for Orchids visit our site at CaringForOrchids.net.