Orchids belongs to the Orchidacae family, with all the difference in size, shape, colour and scent. A majority of orchids are perennial epiphytes, which grow anchored to trees or shrubs in the tropics and subtropics. Other species are lithophytes, growing on rocks or very rocky soil, or are terrestrial. Nearly all temperate orchids are terrestrial. Orchids are one of the most fascinating, beautiful and peculiar variety among the flowering plants.
Orchids generally have simple leaves with parallel veins. The seeds are generally almost microscopic and very numerous. Some species of orchids may flower two or three times a year and some flower annually. It is estimated that there are about 25,000 species of orchids in the world. The most famous orchid in the world is the vanilla orchid (planifolia). Both the seeds and surrounding pulp within the seed pod of the Vanilla orchid are used to make the extremely popular flavoring vanilla extract.
Orchids are grown for the astonishing beauty and variety of their flowers. Most white orchids are pollinated by night-flying moths, colourful orchids usually by bees and the smaller orchids by mosquitoes. Of the many orchid varieties, the Phalaenopsis, Cymbidium and Dendrobium orchids are the most popular types. Orchids are identified by their flowers, whose structure is always complex, designed to attract pollinating insects.
The basic orchid flower is composed of three sepals and three petals, with the medial petal usually modified and enlarged (then called the labellum or lip), forming a platform near the center of the corolla. In many orchids, the sepals are colored and generally resemble the petals. The reproductive organs in the centre (stamens and pistil) have been transformed into a structure called the column.
Hobby growers should try growing hybrids of Phalaenopsis, Paphiopedilum, Dendrobium, Oncidium, Vanda and Epidendrum. Out of about a thousand species of orchids in India, over 600 are to be found in Arunachal Pradesh alone, hence this state can rightly be called as "Orchid Paradise". The National Orchid Garden in the Singapore Botanic Gardens is considered by some to be among the finest collections of orchids in cultivation open to the public.
Orchids can impart a wide variety of messages, but historically the meanings of orchids have included wealth, love, and beauty. In Victorian England orchids took on the mantle of luxury. No doubt this image stems from the fact that these flowers are hard to find anywhere but tropical places. Anyone during this era who could afford to buy these exotic blooms would have to be a rich person. Orchids still have a connotation of luxury as they are still hard to find and exotic.