Overview of Orchids

by: Nancy Hillestad

About Orchids

Orchids get their name from the Greek orchis, meaning "testicle", from the appearance of subterranean tuberoids of the genus Orchis. The family is composed of more than 800 genera, around 25,000 know species. Orchids, like the grasses and the palms, which they resemble in some ways for instance the form of their leaves- are monocotyledons.  They have on cotyledon, or embryo leaf, in contrast to the two of most flowering plants.

Orchids are cosmopolitan in distribution, occurring in every habitat, except Antarctica and deserts. The great majority are to be found in the tropics, mostly Asia, South America and Central America.  They are found above the Arctic Circle, in southern Patagonia and even on Macquarie Island, close to Antarctica. Orchid species are becoming extinct faster than they can be described and classified.  Threats to orchids originate primarily from loss of habitat and collecting.


Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Plantea
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Asparagales
Family: Orchidaceai

My Favorite Orchid

Is the Phalaenopsis Orchid

The generic name originates from the Greek phalaina, "moth" and opsis, "like", descriptive of the inflorescences of some species, which resemble moths in flight. For this reason, the species are sometimes called Moth orchids.

Phalaenopsis are among the most popular orchids sold as potted plants owing to the ease of propagation and flowering under artificial conditions. They were among the first tropical orchids in Victorian collections. Since the advent of the tetrapoloid hybrid Phalaenopsis Doris, they have become extremely easy to grow and flower in the home, as long as some care is taken to provide them with conditions that approximate their native habitats. Their production has become a commercial industry.

In nature, they are typically fond of warm temperatures (20 to 35C ), but are adaptable to conditions more comfortable for human habitation in temperate zones (15 to 30 C); at temperatures below 18 C watering should be reduced to avoid the risk of root rot. Phalaenopsis requires high humidity (60-70%) and low light of 12,000 to 20,000 lux.. Flowering is triggered by a night-time drop in temperature of around 5 to 6 degrees over 2 to 4 consecutive weeks, usually in the fall.

Phalaenopsis prefer to be potted in fir bark, which is more free-draining than the sphagnum moss. Keep them in pots with a lot of drainage. One of the most numerous blunders that new growers make is to rot the roots. Overwatering and poor drainage cause the roots to deterioriate, therefore killing the plant. Being careful to water when you feel the soil is dry through and through is the safest thing to do.

Light is quite vital to the well-being of the phalaenopsis orchid. Keep it in indirect light near a southern window. Be sure the sun does not directly reach the leaves, which will cause burning and ugly brown marks. If the leaf feels hot to the touch, move it away immediately! On the other hand, phalaenopsis grown in poor dark areas tend to grow floppy dark green leaves and rarely flower.

Phalaenopsis roots are quite thick, and the green point at the ends signifies that the root is actively growing. It is okay for them to climb out of the pots. Keep the plant fertilized with a 1/4 diluted strength balanced fertilizer three times out of four waterings.

The flower spikes appear from the pockets near the base of each leaf. The first sign is a light green "mitten-like" object that protrudes from the leaf tissue. In about three months, the spike enlongates until it begins to swell fat buds. The buds will thus bloom. Usually you can tell what color the phalaenopsis is by looking at the bud color. After the flowers fade, some people prefer to cut the spike above the highest node (section). This may produce another flower spike or more rarely a Keiki (a baby orchid plant that can be planted).

I encourage you to attempt at growing this beautiful flower, it is a great hobby.





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send an email to nancy.l.hillestad@ndsu.edu