This family of monocotyledonous plants has evolved from prototypes of the lily and amaryllis family and is noteworthy for the wide variety of its highly specialized and curiously modified forms. Epiphytic types have a stem swollen at the base to form a pseudobulb (for food storage) and pendulous aerial roots adapted for water absorption and sometimes containing chlorophyll to make photosynthesis possible. In terrestrial types a symbiotic relationship often exists between the roots and filamentous fungi (mycorrhiza). Horticulturists have found that the presence of certain fungi is necessary for the germination of the minute seeds. Orchid pollen occurs as mealy or waxen lumps of tiny pollen grains, highly varied in form.
The flowers characteristically consist of three petals and three petallike sepals, the central sepal modified into a conspicuous lip (labellum) specialized to secrete nectar that attracts insects. Most of the diverse forms of orchid flowers are apparently complicated adaptations for pollination by specific insects, e.g., the enormous waxflower of Africa, which has a labellum over a foot long and is pollinated by a moth with a tongue of equal length. The saclike labellum of the lady's-slipper serves the same function by forcing the insect to brush against the anther and the stigma (male and female organs) while procuring nectar.
The expensive orchid of the florists' trade is usually the large cattleya; species of this genus (Cattleya) are epiphytic plants native to tropical America. Among the other cultivated orchids are several of the terrestrial rein orchids (genus Habenaria) and many epiphytic tropical genera, e.g., the Asian Dendrobium, with pendant clusters of flowers; Epidendrum, represented in the SE United States by the greenfly orchid; and Odontoglossum, indigenous to the Andes Mts.
About 140 species of orchid are native to North America, usually as bog plants or flowers of moist woodlands and meadows. Species of lady's-slipper, or moccasin flower (Cypripedium) [Lat.,=slipper of Venus], include the pink-blossomed common, or stemless, lady's-slipper (C. acaule) and the showy lady's-slipper (C. reginae), both of the Northeast, and varieties of the yellow lady's-slipper (C. calceolus), which grow in all but the warmest regions of the continent. Other terrestrial genera that grow as American wildflowers are the fringe orchids (Blephariglottis); the small-blossomed twayblades (species of Liparis and Listera); the pogonias, or beard-flowers (Pogonia); the wild pinks, or swamp rose orchids (Arethusa), of northeastern sphagnum bogs; the grass pinks (Limodorum) of eastern bogs and meadows; and the ladies'-tresses, or pearl-twists (Spiranthes), with a distinctive spiral arrangement of yellowish or white flowers. The coral-roots (Corallorhiza), named for the corallike branching of their underground rhizomes, are a nongreen saprophytic genus which includes some North American species. Because orchids are characteristically slow growing and difficult to seed, excessive picking and futile attempts to transplant have depleted native species in some areas.
Orchids are among the most highly prized of ornamental plants. In Mexico the flowers are used symbolically by the natives; each one conveys a sentiment associated with different ceremonies or religious figures. From the time that orchids were first imported from the Bahamas to Britain (in the early 18th cent.) these flowers have been cultivated for their commercial value and have been successfully hybridized and variegated. Many orchids are now propagated by tissue culture methods. Hawaii has become a major center for commercial orchid culture. A species of the Vanilla genus of tropical America is important economically as the source of natural vanilla flavoring.
The orchid family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Orchidales.
See R. T. Northen, Home Orchid Growing (3d ed. 1970); M. A. Reinikka, A History of the Orchid (1972).
Orchid is a town in Indian River County, Florida, United States. The population was 140 at the 2000 census and was the 9th highest-income place in the United States. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 292. It is ranked sixth in Florida locations by per capita income.
Most of the town is actually a gated community called Orchid Island Golf and Beach Club. East of SR A1A, there is a beach front condominium complex. The rest of Orchid are uninhabited islands. Some of the islands are Plug Island, Preachers Island, and Horseshoe Island. North of Horseshoe Island is Pelican Island, the first National Wildlife Refuge in the United States. Running along the town limits (mostly) is the historic, unpaved Jungle Trail.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.8 square miles (4.8 km²), of which, 1.2 square miles (3.2 km²) of it is land and 0.6 square miles (1.6 km²) of it (33.15%) is water.
There were 69 households out of which 7.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 92.8% were married couples living together, and 7.2% were non-families. 7.2% of all households were made up of individuals and none had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.03 and the average family size was 2.11.
In the town the population was spread out with 4.3% under the age of 18, 0.7% from 18 to 24, 4.3% from 25 to 44, 58.6% from 45 to 64, and 32.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 61 years. For every 100 females there were 100.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.1 males.
The median income for a household in the town was in excess of $200,000, as is the median income for a family. Males had a median income of over $100,000 versus $36,250 for females. The per capita income for the town was $135,870. None of the population is below the poverty line.