Orchids are one of the most successful groups of plants. There are something like 27,000 different species of orchid occurring naturally plus 100,000 or so man-made varieties. But what has made them so diverse and so widespread? Well, a team of scientists has decoded the orchid’s genetic code in an attempt to find out its secrets.
Orchids have some unique features which help them in the evolutionary race. They produce masses of pollen (which improves the chances of pollination), very light seeds (which makes them easier to spread) and can grow on other plants using them to support their own growth.
But what else do we know about orchids? Let’s find out some flowery facts:
- Orchids were one of the first plants to make flowers. Fossils of orchids date back as far as 100 million years ago
- Because there are so many types of orchid, their lifespans vary. Some species though can live for as long as 100 years
- Flowering time also varies. Some orchids are in bloom for 6 months of the year whilst others’ displays last only a few hours
- The size of an orchid also differs. The smallest orchid flowers measure just 2 millimetres across but the largest have metre-long sepals
- Vanilla, the flavour used in ice cream and cakes, comes from the orchid. It’s made from the plant’s seed pods
- As well as for flavouring we also use orchids to make perfume and some medicines
- The bee orchid gets its name because it looks like a bee. It also smells like a female bee which attracts male visitors. These then spread the flower’s pollen from plant to plant
- This specialisation can work to the orchid’s disadvantage. If the insects it has evolved to work with were to die out then there would be none to pollinate the plants and they too would become extinct
So, now you know all about the orchid, but how well do you know other flowers? Test yourself by playing our Nature quizzes. We have over sixty of them, many of which are all about flowers, trees and other plants. If you fancy yourself as green-fingered, give them a go and see whether you can score 10 out of 10 on them all!
Do you have a favourite plant? Perhaps you are growing some of your own. If so, we’d love to hear all about it. So, fill in the comments box below. We’re awaiting your replies!