pronounced: or-kid-AY-see-eye

the orchid family


The name derives from the Greek ορχις (orchis), a name used for several Mediterranean orchids. The Greek word actually means ‘testicle’, and was used because of the shape of the twin fleshy tuberous roots of those species. This is one of the largest families of flowering plants: it contains more than twice the number of bird species, and about 4 times the number of mammal species. In addition, since tropical species began to be cultivated in the 19th century, horticulturalists have produced more than 100,000 hybrids and cultivars. Orchids are perennial terrestrial, epiphytic, lithophytic or climbing herbs, often with fleshy roots; the stems can be leafy or leafless. sometimes thickened into a pseudobulb and/or bearing aerial roots. The leaves are simple, usually alternate, often distichous; they are often fleshy, sheathing at the base. The flowers vary tremendously from species to species, and the fruit is usually a capsule.


Photograph © Donald Simpson 2014