Orchid Facts



  • Orchids are a group of over 20,000 species of flower, growing on every continent but Antarctica.
  • In the moist tropics many grow on the trunks and branches of trees and so are called epiphytes.
  • A few, such as the Bird’s nest orchid, are saprophytes, living off rotting plants in places where there is no light.
  • Some species are found throughout the tropics, such as Ionopsis utricularioides. Others grow on just a single mountain in the world.
  • Orchids have a big central petal called the lip or labellum. It is often shaped like a cup, trumpet or bag.
  • The fly orchid of Ecuador has a lip shaped like a female tachinid fly so as to attract male flies.
  • To attract male bees, the bee orchid has a lip that looks just like a female bee.
  • The early purple orchid was said to have grown beneath Christ’s cross and the red spots on its leaves were said to be left by falling drops of Christ’s blood.
  • The flavor vanilla comes from the vanilla orchid.
  • Ancient Greek couples expecting a baby often ate the roots of the early purple orchid. They believed that if the man ate the flower’s large root the baby would be a boy. If the woman ate the small root, the baby would be a girl.
  • In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, the drowned Ophelia is covered in flowers, including the early purple orchid, famous as a love potion. Hamlet’s mother says that ‘cold maids’ call the flowers ‘dead men’s fingers.