You’re about to enter the wonderful world of orchids. You’re in store for an exciting adventure! This is the largest plant family on our planet with an estimated 30,000 wild types (species) and many more man-made varieties. No other plants can compete with orchids for their power to seduce and bedazzle the most jaded plant lover with their fantastically beautiful flower colors, shapes, and textures, and heady and sensuous perfumes.
Understanding What Makes an Orchid an Orchid
You can easily tell when a rose is rose, but orchids are quite a bit more complex and varied when it comes to their flower shapes and the construction of their leaves, stems, and roots.
Certainly the flamboyant colors of modern orchid hybrids are a standout and are the primary reason these plants are so treasured. But there are so many different types of orchid flowers, so the question is, “Which one is typical?” There is really no correct answer to this question. Many people think of the cattleya-type orchids, while others may picture moth orchids.
To get a better idea how orchid flowers are constructed, take a look at a typical cattleya flower and compare it to a more ordinary flower, a tulip. Table 1-1 shows some of the major differences between these two flowers.
So what makes an orchid an orchid? The column. This fused sexual structure located in the middle of the flower is what separates the orchid from all other plants.