Orchids, Orchidaceae

Orchids (Orchidaceae family) are among the largest and most diverse of the flowering plant (angiosperm) families. There are over 800 described genera and 25,000 (some sources give 30,000) species, and perhaps another 60,000 hybrids and cultivars produced by horticulturalists. The Kew World Checklist of Orchids includes about 24,000 accepted species and about 800 new species are added each year. Orchids, through their floral complexity and their interactions with pollinators and their symbiosis with mycorrhizae, are considered by some to be examples of the most complex floral evolution known.

Orchids get their name from the Greek orchis, meaning ‘testicle’, from the appearance of subterranean tuberoids in some terrestrial species. The word ‘orchis’ was first used by Theophrastos (372/371 – 287/286 BC), in his book “De historia plantarum” (The natural history of plants). He was a student of Aristotle and is considered the father of botany and ecology.

Many orchids are considered by CITES as threatened or endangered in their natural habitat, and are protected by both international and national legislation.