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Orchids, a member of the Orchidaceae family, are well known for being one of the most exotic and elegant tropical flowers. They represent one of the most highly evolved families of monocotyledons with over 880 genera and over 22,000 species ("Orchid care tips," 2005-2012, para. 2). Orchids exhibit extreme diversity in size, shape and color of their flowers. Historically, orchids originated with the early Greeks, where they were believed to serve a mythical and medicinal purpose. It wasn’t until the 19th century that orchids gained attention for their unique beauty and useful properties. Orchid use in the cut flower industry continues to flourish and their long lasting beauty yield a relatively high price in the international market. They are largely grown overseas, however local growers in warm regions have mastered the production of smaller quantities of orchids. For the consumer, the care of a cut flower orchid is critical to its longevity. Although orchids have a reputation for being difficult to care for, most people don’t realize that the care is very basic.
The ancient Greeks believed that the orchid was very sexual in nature. The term orchid came from the word “orkhis”, which literally means testicle in Greek. This name was assigned due to the unique testicle-like shape of the orchid root. In Greek mythology, Orchis was the son of a nymph and a satyr. When Orchis attempted to rape a priestess he was subsequently torn apart by wild beasts, and then metamorphosed into a slender plant. The double root tubers that represent testicles are believed to resemble what got Orchis in trouble in the first place. The Greek women believed that orchids could control the sex of their unborn children. If a father ate large, new tuber roots then the child would be male. If the mother ate small tubers then the child would be female. The Greeks also considered orchids to have medicinal properties, one of them being an aphrodisiac ("History of orchids," 2002-2012, p. 1).
Orchids grew in popularity in the nineteenth century and became known as the “rich man’s plant.” People became competitive growers and sold the flowers for enormous prices. As a consequence, some orchids became extinct. The Aztecs also played a pivotal role in orchid history discovering the famous vanilla orchid, the source of vanilla flavoring. It was said to give the Aztecs strength, who drank it mixed with chocolate ("History of orchids," 2002-2012, p. 1).
The greatest numbers of orchids are found growing in tropical climates; however orchids have been discovered growing on every continent except Antarctica. The majority are epiphytes, meaning that they grow attached to another living plant, usually a tree. A unique characteristic of orchids is that they also can grow from stone and rock, in water, and from sand and dirt ("History of orchids," 2002-2012, p. 1). The primary areas of cut flower production are Holland and Thailand. Potted orchids are primarily produced in Florida and Hawaii. (C. Baker, personal communication, February 8, 2012).
Orchids are the largest and most diverse of the flowering plant family. Hybridization, the crossing between orchid genera, started in the 1850s. Currently the list has surpassed 100,000 and continues to grow each year ("History of orchids," 2002-2012, p. 1). The largest genera are Bulbophyllum (2,000 species), Epidendrum (1,500 species), Dendrobium (1,400 species) and Pleurothallis (1,000 species). However, the most common orchid varieties are Dendrobiums, Cymbidium, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis and Vanda (Teleflora, 2012, p. 1). According to florist Cathleen Baker, the most popular cut orchid frequently used in arrangements is Cymbidium. Cathleen added that the appeal to orchids is that they can last up to 3 weeks with proper care. Florist Linda also explained how orchids come in 5-7 blossoms and they can each be cut apart and used in separate arrangements.
Orchids symbolize love, luxury, beauty, and strength. Because of their more limited commercial production, orchids are generally used in event work, such as parties, weddings and upscale occasions. Each type of orchid has its own personality. Dendrobiums are often used as cut flowers in tropical arrangements. Cymbidium orchids are considered the Mother’s Day corsage orchid. Cattleya orchids were the choice of brides during the 40s and 50s, but Phalaenopsis orchids are the choice for modern arrangements because of their simplicity and elegance. . Possibly thought of as an unlikely use, florist Linda M. expressed that orchids are commonly put in funeral arrangements. Some orchids, such as the vanilla orchid, are edible and used as garnish in culinary presentations (Teleflora, 2012, p. 1).
Orchids are relatively expensive compared to other cut flowers, although it is variety dependent. According to florist Cathleen B. the average retail cost is $39 per stem, with the wholesale cost being half of that.
The vase-life of a cut orchid is mainly dependent on the care provided. It is important to always cut the stems on an angle while they are submerged in water to prevent the stem from drying out. A water mix should contain flower food; however one could also make their own special solution consisting of 1 can 7up soda, one can tap water, and one teaspoon of bleach. It is best advised to change the vase water every three to five days and to trim the flower stems every week. Orchids should be stored out of direct sunlight, away from any dry air, and in a cool spot away from drafts. It’s actually helpful to store the cut orchids in a refrigerator for a little bit every day to prolong vase life ("Caring for cut orchids," n.d., p. 1).

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