Orchid Oddities

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From oldest to smallest to rarest, the orchid provides fascinating reading! Did you know that the smallest orchid was just discovered less than a year ago? Lou Jost, an American botanist, found the tiny orchid in the eastern Andes of Ecuador while inspecting the roots of another plant. It is just 2.1mm wide with petals one cell thick and transparent.

With over 30,000 species and 100,000 hybrids, no wonder some of nature's strangest plant specimens are orchids. We know that they witnessed the dinosaurs, and hold the record for the oldest specimen of pollen. We know that their seeds can be so small that the human eye can barely see them. Some are ugly and obnoxious. Most are beautiful beyond compare, so beautiful that they are the most popular wedding flower. From orchids that look like bananas to ones that could pass as bugs, get ready as we explore these wonders. And beware! Joe Kunisch, a commercial orchid grower from New York said it best, "You can get off alcohol, drugs, women, food and cars, but once you're hooked on orchids you're finished."

One of the strangest orchids is known as a "subterranean orchid". One quick look and you'd think it was just a flower blossom that dropped onto the ground. Actually, this is all you will ever see of this orchid, Rhizanthella gardneri. It grows entirely underground, then finds a crack in the dry surface and shows just a single flower long enough for flies and other insects to pollinate it.

The rarest orchid is consider by most experts to be Dendrophylax or the "Ghost Orchid". As you can imagine it is also one of the most sought after plants. Though native to the West Indies, many believe that they are no longer found anywhere but the Florida swamps. They are also referred to as the "Leafless Orchid" because all you see is a tangled spooky mess of grayish roots clinging to a tree in the swamp. Instead of leaves performing the process of photosynthesis, the roots do the job. Now picture an exquisite white flower amidst these seemingly dead gray roots looking for all the world like it's floating in mid-air and there you have it: beauty with your hair standing on end! To make this orchid even more wonderful, it is only pollinated by the giant sphinx moth!

In Western Australia, Epiblema grandiflorum ssp. cyanea, also known as the "Blue-Babe-in-a-Cradle" spends most of its life submerged underwater. Drakaea elastica or the "Warty Hammer Orchid" only grows under Kunzea ericifloia bushes. One of the most bizarre-looking orchids is Drakaea glyptodont - the labellum is large with the color and even fragrance of raw meat! Diuris purdei nicknamed "Purdie's Donkey Orchid" or "Double Tails" as it is called in Austalia, flowers only after summer brush fires.

Dendrobium crumenatum, nicknamed "The Pigeon Orchid" found in Asia, flowers 7 days after a rain shower or a drop in temperature. But you must be quick! The blooms open all at the same time and last only one day.

Talk about extremes, I bet you thought orchids just grow in the tropics. There are orchids found in the Arctic Circle such as Cypripedium passerinum, Cypripedium guttatum and Coeloglossum viride. The world's southern most orchid is Corybas macranthus, found on Macquarie Island which is very close to Antarctica.

Orchids boast the smallest and tallest as well. Orchid seeds claim top honors with the "coral-root orchid", Corallorhiza maculate. Its microscopic seeds are only about 0.2 mm in diameter. There are bacteria cells that are larger than this orchid seed. The best human eyes can see something as small as about 0.1 mm, so this seed is barely visible to the naked eye. They weigh only 35 millionths of an ounce and float in the air like minute dust particles. The largest orchid is Grammatophyllum papuanum or Grammatophyllum speciosum. Nicknamed the "Giant Orchid" or "Queen Orchid", no one seems to agree which of these two monsters is the largest. They can weigh over a ton with pseudobulbs 25 feet tall and flower spikes reaching heights over 6 feet!

I leave you with this thought. What's the yuckiest thing you can think of? How would you like an orchid that smells like that? Then stay away from the Venezuelan species Cattleya percivaliana, because it smells just like that!

Gardening Articles: http://organicgardenarticles.com/

Author: Jan Gilbert
Jan Gilbert is an author for The Orchid Growing Center at www.SecretLifeOfOrchids.com. This website is a free resource for orchid lovers of all ages and levels of expertise. The mission of the Center is to make orchid growing easy and inexpensive, and to educate the public about the stunning beauty, fascinating history, and endless adventure in the wild world of orchids.

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