Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tropical Orchids

Orchid is a common name of orchidales, a monocot that composed one of the biggest groups of flowering plants. It is a perennial herb that grows in tropical regions of Asia, South and Central America except in Antarctica and the dessert zones of the world. The orchid has over 400 to 800 genera and about 15,000 to 35,000 species.

Orchids have narrow foliage leaves and parallel veins. The vascular tissues are scattered at random throughout the stem and they lack stem cambium that actively divide cells that produced woods. Some leaves of orchids are ovate, others are lanceolate and still others are nearly circular and they are very variable in size. Most of the flower consists of 3 outside sepals and three inside petals. Mostly, all of the sepals and petals of a species are of the same color and shape, and they are collectively called tepals. One of the inner tepals looks distinctly different from the rest. It is lobed or cup shaped and is called labellium which is virtually the landing platform of pollinators. Orchids have only one stamen and pistil, the sex organs of the flowers which are fused together into a structure called the column.

In their natural habitats most orchids are epiphytic which means that they are aerial plant that uses the branch or the trunk of other plants for support only and not for their nutrients. They obtain their water from trapped rain water and moisture in the air and the foods from the organic material that accumulated in the branch or stem of the plants where they cling to. Since they have green leaves, orchids process their foods through photosynthesis. Most of the species however are not tolerant of excessive sunlight. Some species of orchids are parasitic and get their nutrients from their host plant. Others are saprophytic and get their foods from decaying vegetation.                  

Pollinators such as moths, butterflies, bees, and others are attracted to the color, color patterns and shapes or orchid flowers. Fertilized ovary contains ovules that mature into small seeds. As many as 2 million seeds can be produced from a single seedpod.

In the Philippines the most popular specie is Waling Waling or Vanda Sanderiana which is considered the queen of Philippine flowers.  It is used to breed about 80% species of Vanda orchids in the world.

Not satisfied with the quality of flowers of natural orchids, horticulturists have developed more species of orchids through hybridization thus improving the quality of orchid species. Growers get financial benefits from orchids by selling the flowers or the plants. Most orchids are now domesticated and people plant them to decorate their yard or add them to their garden. Orchids can easily adapt to an environment that is simulated to their natural habitat. A species of tropical orchid that is grown for its economic value is the Vanilla Planifolia. The extract of the seedpod of vanilla is commercially produced to flavor cakes, ice cream and other foods.

Waling Waling, the queen of Philippine flowers



Related article