What exactly is an orchid?


When Jules and I were in Kleinmond we saw a sign saying that there were some orchids growing in the fynbos. We wondered what makes an orchid an orchid. So here it is…

Orchids are the most diverse family of flowering plants – 25,000 species!

What makes an orchid an orchid?

  • They have both the male and female reproductive structures fused into a single structure called a “column”.
  • Every orchid bloom has 3 sepals (the leaves just around the flower) and 3 petals.
  • They also (usually) have a highly modified petal called a lip, or labellum – a landing pad for bugs.

Other interesting facts:

  • Vanilla is actually an orchid! It is the only orchid widely grown for non-beauty reasons.
  • The largest orchid can grow to more than 20m long.
  • The name “orchid” comes from the Greek root orkhis, meaning “testicle”.
  • In their natural environment, each orchid species is dependent upon a specific type of insect to carry out its pollination.