My Favorite This Week

My Favorite This Week

What Is Orchid


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The orchid family (aka Orchidaceae) is the largest flowering plant family on earth with about 30,000 species. It is also one of the oldest plant families – developing about 84 million years ago. Being so old, orchids have had plenty of time to develop into very specialized organisms. It is specifically the orchid flower, rather than the foliage, that has developed in this specialized way. While orchids look very exotic, they are in their essence very primitive plants. The vascular system in their leaves is not nearly as developed as more modern plants and that leads to foliage that is not always very impressive. Their pollen is also very primitive – a fine dust, as fine as the spores of ferns, that is concentrated in “packets” known as pollinia. Because this pollen only comes in packets that cannot float freely through the air, orchids are entirely dependent on a pollinator – and over their eons of development, they have modified their flowers to trick a wide variety of pollinators into transporting their pollen from one flower to another.

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