Family Profile: The Orchidaceae
|Figure 1. Cyrtopodium punctatum, the cigar|
orchid, is an endangered species which is
native to Florida. Photo credit: Al Menk.
This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Plant Taxonomy students at Jacksonville University. FNPS blogger Laurie Sheldon assisted the students with their initial drafts, providing suggestions for editing and content development.
|Figure 2. Orchid leaf with obvious parallel|
veins. Photo credit: Fastily.
Leaf: alternate, spiral or 2-ranked, simple, and are often plicate, basal, or along the stem
Flower: bisexual, bilateral with tepals forming a lip or labellum
The orchid family, Orchidaceae, is one of the largest flowering plant families in the world. It is so large that there are actually more orchid species than twice the number of bird species! In Florida, we are lucky to have so many 109 native species, varieties, and hybrids. Unfortunately, 56 of those species are listed as endangered in Florida. The state also has 13 non-native species.
This family is most commonly found in tropical regions. However, given the large number of species in this family, it is not surprising that they are found growing in a variety of habitats. Some are found in semideserts, and others are pantropical which means they are only found in specific regions or certain countries. There are even species that bloom within the Arctic Circle! Orchids can be terrestrial, found growing on other plants (epiphytic) or rocks (lithophytic). Epiphytic plants differ from parasitic species like mistle toe in that they do not harm their host.
|Figure 3. Note the labellum of Encyclia|
tampensis, a native Florida orchid.
Photo credit: Shirley Denton
Some of the most recognizable features among orchids are the parallel veins in their leaves (Fig. 2) and the labellum or lip (Fig. 3) component of their flowers. The flowers are usually resupinate, which means they were twisted 180° during development.
The family Orchidaceae includes plants that are economically important. For example, Vanilla planifolia is the source of vanilla extract, a product used in kitchens around the world. Vanilla extract comes from the orchid’s fruit or capsule. The family also includes popular ornamentals Cattleya, Dendrobium, Epidendrum, Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis, Vanda, and Oncidium.
|Figure 4. Ophrys insectifera, the fly orchid|
Judd, WS, Campbell, SC, Kellogg, EA, Stevens, PF, and Donoghue, ML. 2008. Plant systematics: A phylogenetic approach. Sinauer Associates, Inc. Massachusetts, USA.
Figure 1. http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Photo.aspx?id=12689
Figure 2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Orchidaceaeleaf3500ppx.JPG
Figure 3. http://www.shirleydenton.com/plants/web_pics/e/encycl_tam_fl07.jpg
Figure 4. http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/23492298.jpg