With over 25,000 different species and varying shapes and colors, it’s no wonder that people are becoming more and more fascinated with orchids.
Coming in colors ranging from brown to magenta, orchids are the largest variety of flower and grow everywhere in the world except for the coldest tundras and driest deserts. As recent as this past December, new orchid species have been discovered and researchers are continually uncovering new findings about the enchanting plant species.
With so much variety, it should be no surprise that there are some amazing and little known facts about orchids. I was amazed at all the different uses for and the history surrounding this mysterious plant. After conducting some research, I have listed below the 5 orchid facts that I found most interesting. Enjoy!
1. Vanilla Orchids
Have you ever wondered where vanilla beans and vanilla flavoring come from? Well the answer is the orchid! The Vanilla Planifolia variety of orchid is a vine-like, climbing orchid that originates in Central America. It produces a “bean” that can be dried and used as a flavoring. It was used by both the Mayans and the Aztecs to flavor a hot chocolate drink. After its introduction to Europe in the 1500’s, Europeans tried to grow it for almost 300 years with no success. It was later discovered that the flower cannot self pollinate, and it needs the help of small bees native to tropical climates.
2. Bee Orchids
One of the most fascinating kinds of orchids is the Ophrys scolopax, or the bee orchid. Found in areas around the Mediterranean, this orchid has developed a unique way to ensure pollination. The flower has three colorful pedals, but it also has one that looks like a female bee. In addition, the pedals of the orchid produce a smell that mimics that of a female bee. All of this attracts a male who ends up covered in pollen, and then repeats the cycle and pollinates other flowers.
3. Orchids as Glue
With their brilliant colors and amazing shapes, it is no surprise that orchids were highly regarded to the indigenous people of Central and South America. However, aside from their inherent beauty, the orchid also provided many uses to them; one of which was glue. The Aztecs would dry the roots in the sun, mash them into a fine powder and then add water. The result was a strong gum adhesive that was used to make wonderful feather artwork and even violins.
4. Orchids as Medicine
Different varieties of orchids can be found almost everywhere in the world, which has caused people to wonder if it contains remedial qualities. In Asian countries, it has been used for over 1,700 years and even appears in the oldest Chinese pharmaceutical book. Likewise, other cultures, even to this day, use the orchid for its medicinal properties. It is thought that the orchid can cure headaches, fevers, coughs, aches, wounds and more.
5. The Night Booming Orchid
With over 25,000 species of orchids, there are a variety of shapes, sizes, and traits. However, in 2011, a new species was found that was different from all the others. Discovered by a Dutch researcher in Papua New Guinea, the Bulbophyllum nocturnum orchid is the only one to bloom exclusively at night. In addition, the flower blooms for one night only which makes a short life for the flower. Although not much is known about it yet, it is amazing that there is still so much to be discovered about orchids.
Learn proper orchid care from one of our plant design experts in this instructional video.
Do you have a favorite orchid species? Share below in the comments