Science04 Feb 2011 09:43 pm
The orchid family, Orchidaceae, is the most numerous in the plant kingdom. There are about 25,000 to 30,000 known species of orchids around the world. Orchids are found in all continents except Antarctica, from hot tropical jungles to the cold climate in North America. However, some orchids are found only in certain region of the world and nowhere else, for example, the Vanda genus colonizes only South East Asia.
Orchidaceae are a morphologically diverse and widespread family of monocots in the order Asparagales. It is currently believed to be the second largest family of flowering plants (only the Asteraceae is larger), with between 21,950 and 26,049 currently accepted species, found in 880 genera. The number of orchid species equals more than twice the number of bird species, and about four times the number of mammal species. It also encompasses about 6–11% of all seed plants. The largest genera are Bulbophyllum (2,000 species), Epidendrum (1,500 species), Dendrobium (1,400 species) and Pleurothallis (1,000 species).
The name “orchid” comes from the Greek “órkhis”, literally meaning “testicle”, because its root has a similar shape. The orchid has a well-known relative, whose extract can be found in almost every home, the common vanilla plant. What is less well known about the orchid plant is the extent of the orchid plants’ uniqueness in nature. Surprisingly, orchids are fairly easy to grow. Orchids are easily distinguished from other plants, as they share some very evident apomorphies. Among these: bilaterally symmetric (zygomorphic), many resupinate, one petal (labellum) is always highly modified, stamens and carpels are fused, and the seeds are extremely small.
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