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All about orchids

With the Canberra Orchid Society Annual Show coming up, now is the perfect time to share some interesting orchid facts.

Did you know …

  • The orchid family is one of the two biggest plant families, with more than 26,000 known species (plus more not yet discovered) and more than 110,000 registered hybrids.
  • Many species do not grow in the ground. Instead they grow on rocks or more commonly in trees. Their roots attach to the bark of the host tree, but they do not take nutrients from it.
  • Charles Darwin was fascinated by orchids, noting that certain types had evolved blooms which only allowed a specific pollinator. He described them as “universally acknowledged to rank amongst the most singular and most modified forms in the vegetable kingdom”.
  • Orchids strive for efficiency. Many Australian species have strategies to achieve pollination without having to provide nectar or pollen for their insect pollinator, saving energy. One such strategy involves orchids mimicking particular species of female insects in order to attract the male insects of the relevant species. They pollinate the flower while trying to copulate with the pretend female insect.
  • Usually a single insect species is associated with a single orchid species. Some Australian varieties copy the appearance of other plant species in their environment, thus benefitting from the pollen or nectar those species produce.
  • Unlike the seeds of most plants, orchid seeds are tiny (about one million to a gram) and contain very little nutrition to help the germinating plant to develop. Instead, they produce vastly more numerous, much smaller seeds for greater efficiency, relying on an associated fungus to provide the necessary nutrients. Only if infected with the fungus can the tiny germinating orchid grow.
  • Some species were so valuable, and collected so intensively, that they were eliminated from the wild. International trade in orchids is now regulated by an international convention, which covers all species.
  • Despite their rarity, orchids are still sought out by international collectors, enthusiasts and hunters for their long-lasting and record-holding blooms. Vast numbers of them continue to be taken from the wild, threatening the survival of many species.
  • In 2005, the Shenzhen Nongke Orchid became the most expensive flower ever sold when an anonymous bidder paid the equivalent of $290,000 at an auction. The plant had been developed in a laboratory over eight years by agricultural research corporation Shenzhen Nongke Group.

Canberra Orchid Society Annual Show: Visit this year’s annual orchid show where there will be flowering orchids on display, plants for sale, and commercial vendors.

When: 21-22 September, Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 10am-4pm

Where: Ainslie Football Club

Entry: $2 (u14 free)

For more: www.canberraorchids.org

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