Next to the sunflower family, the Orchidaceae has the most species of the plant families. It is estimated there are 25,000-30,000 species. As natural habitats are destroyed, so are species of orchids. In addition to the naturally occurring species, there are over 100,000 hybrids. It is among the most diverse plants with over 800 genera.
An orchid is unique in many ways. One is that stamen (male) and the pistil (female) are a single fused structure known as the column. Another way an orchid is unique, is that there are three sepals (sometimes fused or very small) and the three petals. When looking at an orchid you will see that each side is a mirror of the other, another unique feature.
There are orchid species that can grow anywhere, with the exception of the frozen tundra of Antarctica. Though there are a few orchids that grow on trees (epiphytes), on rocks (lithophytes), and underground (saprophytes), most orchids grow in tropical forests and mountain ranges (terrestrials). These are the plants that do best in home gardens and as houseplants.
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) was created in response to the 1963 resolution at a meeting of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Orchids are protected by CITES so the many species will be assured survival.
An orchid is a unique and beautiful plant.