Creating a Unique Orchid - Hybrids Are the Rage

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Those who have grown orchids know it can become habit forming. Many growers spend countless hours researching the pronunciation of Latin names. What is the special fascination with these flowers?

Orchid varieties come in a vast assortment. Over 25,000 species occur naturally, and the artificial hybrids number at over 100,000 recognized by official botanical organizations. Artificial hybrids don't mean that scientists have created new organisms from the soil, air and water. It is a term designated for plants creatd from a cross pollination process.

Both hybrids and naturally occurring orchids come with an endless range of sizes. There are varieties best seen with a magnifying glass, as well as varieties which look beautiful on a windowsill. One variety found in the Indonesian rain forest weighs in excess of 1,000 pounds, producing thousands of flowers on a mature plant.

The rainbow of colors and variety of shapes are a signature marker of orchids. Many will resemble a bird, a moth or a bee. There are varieties that have forms like nothing else seen, and these are the unusually appealing varieties to breeders. While orchids were once only available for the upper-class, now almost anyone can own one of these gorgeous plants.

Orchids have been long admired, but over the years no one could effectively reproduce them. It wasn't until 1856 that the first hybrid orchid variety flowered. People admired the plants, but most found them too fussy to cultivate, as they were more tedious than pleasurable.

Orchid seeds are notoriously small, sometimes as fine as dust. Learning to handle these seeds has been challenging, as well as getting them to grow. In 1922, Dr. Lewis Knudsom made a discovery that made orchids a widely available item. When seeds were placed in a mixture of water, sugar and agar, the seeds germinated and grew. Since then, new hybrids appear every year.

In nature, a hybrid occurs if there are two or more closely related species that flower near one another. In nature, the insects act as pollinators, going from plant to plant. The pollen from the plants first visited will fertilize the subsequent plants. The fertilized seeds create seedpods that are capable of growing into a new variety.

Over the course of time, the seedpod will mature and open, sending out thousands of seeds. Of the ones that take root, some will have difficulty growing, and even less will reach maturity. The ones that do grow are the natural hybrids.

Man made hybrids are often named by the grower. Special orchids will have the cultivators name as well. It is interesting to look at some of the major groups of orchids:

Epidendrum group: This is a group of wild orchids. It is the largest group and has about 1000 species.
Denobricm group: This is the second largest genus containing 900 species. It is found in the Himalayas, in southern Asia and Australia.

Cattleya group is mostly hybrid variety. This group boasts of a variety of colors from bright violet, yellow to subtle tinted cream colored variety.

Cymbidium group: This group contains about 40 species and is prized for its beauty. Multiple blossoms in a single stem is its specialty. Long lasting cut flowers and orchids valued as export commodity come under this group.

Brassarola group has fragrant flowers, most of which are white colored. Heavily fringed lips at the edge of the blossom are the specialty of this group.

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Author: David P Lee

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