The Different Types of Orchids

Of the thousands of species of orchids to choose from there are just two main orchid types. Here is an explanation of both – terrestrial and epiphytes.

Although there are thousands upon thousands of species of orchids and thousands more hybrids, there are just two fundamental orchid types – terrestrial and epiphyte. Terrestrial orchids grow on the ground and epiphytes grow above ground.

The Terrestrial Orchids

Terrestrial refers to “earthbound” organisms. The nutrients that a terrestrial plant absorbs are acquired from the soil using its below ground root system. Having said that, there are a small number of terrestrial orchids that are classed as “semi-terrestrial”. This is because they have a combination of both underground and above ground roots. The Cymbidium orchid is an example of a semi-terrestrial orchid as it can found on the ground but also on trees and rocks. The Cymbidium orchid was one of the first species to be cultivated and has approximately 40 species and thousands of hybrids.

The Cymbidium orchid belongs to a natural habitat that stretches from South East Asia to Japan. They can also be found in Australia where they have become very popular. The Cymbidium orchid is a huge favorite for experts and beginners alike because they are quite easy to grow, and with good care they’ll bloom in spectacular fashion for years.

The Epiphyte Orchid

The classification of “epiphyte” refers to the type of plant that gains support from another plant known as a “host”; and not specific to orchids in any way. An epiphyte then gets its sustenance from the organic matter that forms between itself and its “host” partner. A very well known epiphyte orchid is the Dendrobium and has more than 1200 species. Although easy to grow, they need more input from their owner than the owner of a Cymbidium. They also don’t flower as much either.

The Dendrobium hails from the north of India, South East Asia, Australia and Polynesia (an area of Oceania that is made up of approximately 1000 islands). Because of their normal environment, they do need humid conditions to successfully survive. Provided that growing condition can be supported, your Dendrobium will be easy to grow and maintain for many flowering seasons. It’s the Dendrobium that is actually most popular at weddings as it can have very many different colors and even have stripes.

As discussed earlier, an epiphyte uses another host plant for physical support but it doesn’t receive its nutrition from the host itself. In most cases, they cling to trees by embedding their roots on the bark or the branches. The organic matter that builds up between the roots and the host’s surface is what’s used as its nutrients. This build up then acts as a reserve for the wet and dry seasons. The roots are very tough and stringy and the core is wrapped by a spongy cover that soaks up water quite effectively. When the rains come, this wrapping absorbs the moisture and turns green when completely full. This moisture is then kept by the roots which slowly distribute it to the plant tissues. Because epiphytes hang from trees or stick to rocks, and are used to filtered light through the forest canopy, they prefer conditions that are open and airy.

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