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Types of Orchids:

Unusual and Rare


A passionate search for rare orchids found me reading about one of the commercial uses for orchids: vanilla – yup, the prized and expensive vanilla pod grows on an orchid. There are sixty different varieties of vanilla orchid but the one used for commercial purposes is Vanilla Planifolia.



Rare Orchids



The pods take eight or nine months to develop and then needs to be sweated and dried repeatedly for months more, before they become the spice we see in our supermarket. Also, certain orchid tubers are used in various dishes around the world, including ice cream. The tubers are ground up with other ingredients and made into an ice cream product called Salep. It is very popular in Turkey.


Vanilla Planifolia would be a challenge to grow, don’t you think? But there are also various parts of orchids that are used in some traditional medicines.  Upside-down orchids which flower through the base of the plant are also an unusual but popular choice.


While most orchids have a pleasant perfume there are some you would want to plant as far down the backyard as possible. They are pollinated by flies and thus smell like a dead animal. Hard to believe anyone would want to grow these orchids, but we must realize that everything that grows is designed for pollination, so not all will smell attractive to us, but may be worth their beauty just to have them.


The ghost orchid (Polyrrhiza Lindenii), has exploded with 14 buds this month on an ancient bald cypress tree at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples. It is the epiphytic orchid that grows without leaves on the trunks of trees in small concentrated areas of Southwest Florida. The plants are usually only visible to intrepid adventurers who must hike through hip deep water in the cypress to reach them.


The Christmas orchid, (Cattleya Trianae), is the national flower of Colombia. It is only found in the Colombian Andes, and is currently endangered. People from Colombia call it the “May flower”.


When a terrestrial orchid in Africa became endangered, it was not close to extinction because of illegal trade, but because of human consumption. Apparently these orchids have tubers, like potatoes, and are very much in demand by the public. Since all orchids are protected under CITES, the trade of these orchids is illegal but continues anyway between Tanzania and Zambia. The tubers are boiled and eaten as a delicacy, and it is estimated 2.2 million tubers per year are sold.



Esther Smith, author 

Interesting facts all – amazing what you can learn with a bit of reading, isn’t it? Why not learn more about orchids; their origins and their special needs by visiting us at our website=>