The aristocrats of the plant kingdom.
Orchids of the Caribbean
With more than 25,000 different species, the orchid may be the largest family of flowering plants. Perhaps as many as another 25,000 varieties have been developed by crossing wild with cultivated plants.
What makes orchids so popular are their intricately-shaped flowers, the rainbow array of the colors and their wonderful smelling fragrances.
In the Caribbean, most orchids are epiphytes, or tree dwellers. You may also see some clinging to rocks, called lithophytes. Orchids are not parasites but use a tree or rock for support while their roots absorb moisture from the air and nutrients from various sources, including bird droppings.
According to David Williams of the Forestry Division on the island of Dominica, all orchids are similar in structure, having three sepals and three petals.
Another common feature is their fleshy, club-shaped column that is a fusion of the pistil and stamens, the reproductive organs.
The most colorful part of the orchid is called a lip or labellum, usually large and elaborate in shape.
The term "orchid" derives from the Greek word "orchis," meaning testicles. Evidently the first orchids ever categorized had two bulbs that resembled the testes of the human male.