Terrestrial and Epiphytes
Actually, there are only two types of orchids but many, many different species and hybrids so let’s explore these two types first. There is the terrestrial that grow on the ground and the epiphytes that grow in trees, rocks or poles.
Terrestrial orchid species are some of the most popular ones -- although they have roots that grow beneath the surface of the soil just like most other kinds of plants, some terrestrial orchids are semi-terrestrial, This means that they have both underground and aerial roots. Cymbidium orchids are a terrestrial orchid that has 40 species and thousands of hybrids. They were one of the first species of orchids to have been cultivated. These orchids are a great example of terrestrials that not only grow on the ground but they can also grow on trees and rocks. They grow extremely well in the loose humus of rotted wood or decayed leaves.
Cymbidium orchids can be found in their natural habitat which extends from Southeast Asia to Japan and they can also be found in Australia. Cymbidium orchids are so popular because they are easy to grow and are therefore a perfect choice for beginners. Plus, with the proper care, they will provide beautiful flowers every year.
The term epiphytes are actually not reserved to a type of orchid. It refers to any plant that has a root system above ground. Dendrobiums are the best known epiphytes orchid. Although they are easy to grow, they require slightly more care than Cymbidiums and do not flower as easily on a regular basis.
There are over 1000 species of them. They can be found in their natural tropical conditions of Northern India, South East Asia, Australia and Polynesia. Because they are found in tropical conditions, Dendrobiums thrive in warm, humid growing conditions and should be kept moist. Another popular epiphyte type of orchid is the Phalaenopsis. These orchids are easy to grow and have long-lasting flowers. They are often seen at weddings and can be found in various colors including pinks, yellows, and even stripes.
Epiphytic orchids grow upon structures like trees but do not receive its nourishment from the tree. They establish themselves by their fleshy roots on branches or bark of trees. The organic matter that accumulates between the roots and branches is used as nutrients for the plant. The roots of epiphytic orchids can also sustain the plant through wet and dry periods.
The tough, stringy core of the root is surrounded by a spongy off-white covering that can absorb water easily. When it rains, this cover soaks up water. When it is completely saturated, it turns light green. The orchid’s roots retain the moisture and will release it gradually to the plant tissues. There are also some species of epiphytic orchids that cling to rocks. As they are suspended from trees or rocks, the epiphytic thrive in filtered light and always in open, airy situations.
Esther Smith, author