Welcome to the Bizarre World of Orchids

Ornamental Gardening
// February 27, 2018
sympodia orchid plant

Orchids are undoubtedly the most curious looking ornamental flowers in the world. They belong to a botanical family Orchidaceae, which is one of the largest families in flowering plants. There are about 700 genera and more than 30 thousand wild species of orchids. Among them, around 1,300 species are found in India. The number of hybrid species is more than 1 lakh, and every year thousands of new hybrids are added.

Orchid plants can be classified in the following manner:

1. Classification of orchids according to plants growing habits:

Epiphytic orchids: These orchids grow on living tree barks and derive their moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, or from debris accumulating around it. Majority of popular orchids are epiphytic. Eg. Dendrobium, Rhynchostylis, Vanda.

Terrestrial orchids: Also known as ground orchids, these grow directly on the soil of a forest floor or open ground. These can be grown in pots filled with soil mix. Eg. Cymbidium, Habenaria, Calanthe.

terrestrial orchid flower

2. Classification of orchids according to plants branching pattern:

Monopodial orchids: These orchids grow continuously in one direction and flowers are formed on a single branch. Eg. Vanda, Arachnis, Phalaenopsis.

Sympodial orchids: These orchids grow in series of annual growing points giving the appearance of multiple branches, each one bearing a flowering inflorescence. Eg. Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Cattleya.

oncidium sharry baby

3. Classification of orchids according to their preferred climatic conditions:

Temperate orchids: These orchids grow in the cool climate of northern hemisphere or high altitude hill station of India. These are usually grown in Himalayas, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. Eg. Cymbidium, Paphiopedilum, Calanthe.

Tropical orchids: These orchid species grow in hot and humid conditions. Cultivation of tropical orchids is mostly confined to Kerala and Tamilnadu. Eg. Dendrobium, Bulbophyllum, Vanda.

orchid plant

Some notable orchids found in India:

  • Aerides maculosa
  • Acampe praemorsa
  • Bulbophyllum fimbriatum
  • Dendrobium barbatulum
  • Dendrobium pierardii
  • Corymborkis veratrifolia
  • Habenaria rariflora
  • Nervilia aragoana
  • Pecteilis gigantea
  • Rhynchostylis retusa

types of orchids

Some interesting orchids:

  • Bletia purpurea: This common pink orchid is first ever cultivated orchid in gardens in 1731 by Englishman, Peter Collinson.
  • Eria pusilla: This is the smallest orchid plant in India, the entire plant measuring only about 1 cm.
  • Galeola falconeri: This is the largest orchid plant in India, the plant attains a height of 7-10 feet at the time of flowering.
  • Taeniophyllum: This orchid flowers appear directly on green epiphytic roots. The plant does not have any leaves or stem.

Some bizarre orchids:

  • Bee orchid (Ohyrus): This orchid flower mimics female bee and also produces the bee pheromones. In an attempt to mate with the female bees the males happen to pollinate these flowers.
  • White egret orchid (Pecteilis radiata): The flower that resembles flying white egret.
  • Flying duck orchid (Caleana major): Orchid Flower that resembles a flying duck.
  • Dancing monkey orchid (Orchis simia): Flowers in an inflorescence that look like little dancing monkeys.
  • Monkeyface orchid (Dracula simia): This orchid flower has an uncanny resemblance with the face of a monkey when viewed from a front angle.

bee orchid flower

The commercial and garden orchids are mostly the hybrid species of following genera:

Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Oncidium, Cattleya, Vanda, Arachnis, Phalaenopsis.

Orchid flower and branch are blooming with bud in tropical garden

In the next blog of this series, we will learn about the cultivation of orchids, climate, soil, fertilizers and propagation practices.

Read more about ‘Growing orchids indoors

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