Orchids and their Origins
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Orchids were first discovered by British Horticulturists in the early 19th century, and people were so taken back by these colorful and intricate flowering plants it created what was called Orchidelirium, an obsession in the truest sense of the word that continues to this day. The demand for these exotic flowers was so great it became a big business overnight. What may have appeared to be a Victorian fad to the wealthy in the early 19th century, has remained a fascination for all people around the globe today.
There are certainly an abundance of beautiful flowers in the world, but orchids stand out as one of the most advanced and intricate in the entire plant kingdom. As orchids have evolved they have become specialized in developing complex mechanism that causes insects and other small animals to pollinate their blossoms. As a result there is a huge variety of orchids, well over 25,000, with new ones being discovered every year.
Orchids grow all over the world and can tolerate most environments except the most severe arctic or desert areas. Most orchids of course were discovered in the tropics and were either terrestrial orchids which means they grew in the ground, but mostly they are epiphytes, which means they are tree dwellers. They would actually get better light in the by attaching themselves in the heights of the trees where the sunlight penetrated the dense forest. They would absorb their nutrients from the decaying organic matter that would accumulate around their roots and from the sugars created by photosynthesis. In adapting to these aerial environment epiphytic orchids developed strong roots coated with kind of a spongy material (velamen), that allowed them to attach to the bark of the trees and absorb water rapidly.
There are two kinds of growth habits that orchid exhibit.
Monopodial orchids grow predominately upward. It has a main stem and the new grow produces leaves from the tip and flower buds from the juncture of the leaves and stems.
The other growth habit is a sympodial orchid which grows outward along the surface of the growing medium. Its stem called a rhizome is often horizontal and new shoot spring up from the buds on the rhizomes and send out there own roots.