As you may have noticed, some of the most intriguing and beautiful plants in the world are Orchids. They are given as gifts for all sorts of occasions and are become extremely popular as cut flowers. What you might not know is that they are one of the most common species in the world. There are four times more Orchid species in the world than there are mammals, and two times more than birds. In this article, we will find out about Orchids symbolism and where Orchids come from.
Just recently, archeologists uncovered a stingless bee that was preserved dating back 15-20 million years ago. They found confirmed Orchid pollen on this bee, showing that Orchids were present during its life. This was a huge development in the history of the Orchid, because it shows that they were present when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and indicates that Orchids have the ability to adapt to changing environments to survive.
With between 21,000 and 26,000 species accepted by biologists, Orchids are one of the largest groups of species. Orchids have thrived on earth by producing large amounts of seeds with each successful pollination. Throughout the history of the Orchid, we have found that most Orchid species have specific insects that are used for pollination. This helps keep the Orchids from too much natural crossbreeding because the insects can’t usually get nectar from more than one species.
Charles Darwin was the first to discover this in his research found in “Fertilisation of Orchids”. He researched pollination in plants using Orchids, and then published his findings in 1862. This book describes the relationship between insects and plants and how they interact. This changed how we look at the history of Orchids, and pointed us to the Orchids symbolism we believe today.
Darwin stated that each Orchid species had a specific insect that could pollinate its flowers. Orchids’ tube like flowers are basically small traps that allow only insects of a certain size to get in. Once the insects are attracted in by the smell of the nectar, the pollen on the walls within the flower sticks to them. The insects need to be small enough to get in, but big enough to get free from the sticky pollen as well.
He also found that some species needed pollinators with specific unique characteristics. Darwin found an Orchid species that was brought from Madagascar that had a very thin 10 inch deep tube that housed the pollen. He hypothesized that there was a moth species found in Madagascar that would be able to reach deep into the flower and be the sole pollinator of this species. Sixty five years later, that was confirmed in the discovery of a moth with a fourteen inch tongue.
The written history of the Orchid begins in ancient Greece, where Orchids were used to encourage fertilization. In fact, the world Orchid actually comes from the ancient Greek world for “testicle”. They believed that a father eating large Orchid petals would encourage the birth of a boy; if the mother ate small Orchid petals, this would encourage the birth of a girl.
So what do Orchids symbolize you ask?
Orchids play an important role in traditional Chinese medicine. They believe that the body is in a constant battle of two forces that need to be balanced. Confucius also identified Orchids as a sign of a virtuous man. He stated that these flowers stood for a perfectly cultured gentleman and scholar. Confucius contributed greatly to the Orchids symbolism we believe in today.
Collecting Orchids in the wild for sale is now banned because of the large amount of harvesting in the early 1900s. Businessmen would fund humongous expeditions to go out and collect exotic Orchids and bring them back to Europe. They would then be sold at auctions for huge prices, and quickly became a status of wealth. The problem with this was that not much was known about how to care for Orchids yet, so most did not survive.
I hope this article helps you understand Orchids symbolism and how we got to where we are today. Orchids are such an amazing flower with the ability to adapt and overcome in order to survive. This shows us that Orchids should be available for years to come, so our kids, their kids, and their grandkids will be able to experience the great beauty of the Orchid.
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