What is an Orchid?

Diana Bocco

An orchid is a member of the Orchidaceae family, the largest group of all living flowers. There are at least 25,000 different species of orchids, with probably thousands more that remain unknown or unclassified. Horticulturists have also created over 100,000 hybrids for commercialization, as orchids are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Orchids need plenty of sunlight.
Orchids need plenty of sunlight.

An orchid can grow in almost any climate except deserts, but most of them are native to tropical and subtropical climates, with tropical America having the largest variety. An orchid can also grow in all kinds of soil, including rocky soil or anchored on trees. The color of an orchid depends mainly on where they grow. While Asian orchids are bright and multicolored, an African orchid is usually white. The same is true of their format and size, which varies greatly from species to species.

The largest collection of orchids in the world can be found in Singapore.
The largest collection of orchids in the world can be found in Singapore.

Of the many different types of orchids known, some are fairly easy to grow at home. An orchid is amazingly sturdy and can survive in the basic of conditions, as long as they're kept in a warm environment with plenty of sunlight. Due to the many different kinds of orchids available, it's important to do research before choosing the one you want. Some bloom once a year, while others bloom continuously.

An orchid is primarily grown as decoration. Aside from the beauty of the plant, an orchid has little commercial value. One interesting exception is the orchid known as Vanilla Planifolia, from which vanilla flavoring is made. An orchid is not longer the "flower of kings." Once extremely expensive, orchids can be now grown at home or bought at nurseries almost anywhere in the world.

The Singapore Botanical Gardens contains the world's largest collection of orchids, including some locally-grown hybrids not available anywhere else in the world. Although the garden attracts thousands of visitors every year, most go home empty handed, as only a few species are for sale here.

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Discussion Comments


Orchids are one of the best houseplants. They are not difficult to grow, and they bloom for a long time. As far as care they need indirect light, regular room temperature and watering once a week.

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