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When we talk about orchids, the uninitiated immediately think of the beautiful and very original flowers that can be admired in the windows of florists. However, these flowers have a specific name because they belong to various species or varieties of different botanical genera all classified in the Orchidaceae family. The orchids of some species were already known in antiquity while the tropical and exotic ones were found at the time of the great geographical discoveries by naturalists and botanists who accompanied the explorers to the various parts of the globe. Starting from the few dozen species identified around the middle of the eighteenth century, botanists have managed to classify and identify over 600 genera, including around 20,000 species. In addition, there are innumerable varieties or hybrids derived by natural mutation or artificial pollination. Orchids are divided into two large groups: exotic orchids and rustic orchids. Exotic orchids are plants originating from the tropical regions of many parts of the world. They are in the vast majority of epiphytic plants, that is, they live on trees even though they are not parasitic (that is, without being those types of plants that live in intimate association with others, to which they cause damage). They have showy flowers with the most varied colors and shades. Rustic orchids are spontaneous plants of temperate regions and are terrestrial, that is, they have the lower part sunk into the soil from which they draw food. Their flowers are different and much smaller than those of orchids on display by florists; however even if sometimes they are tiny they have the advantage of being very graceful for the strange shapes, for the bright colors, and very perfumed.
How to grow wild orchids
Hundreds of varieties and hybrids cultivated by specialized florists belong to this large group of orchids, which represent a very important item of the flower industry. The cultivation of wild orchids is not easy; until the last century their multiplication has created enormous difficulties for enthusiasts, given that the sowing gave no results. Finally, a French biologist realized that the seed embryo requires an energy element for its development that is provided in nature by a fungus and that can be replaced by a special concentrated glucose solution; since then the reproduction of orchids has become possible. The orchidaceae have the characteristic that the seed does not sprout if it is not in symbiosis with a fungus, different according to the species of orchids, which supplies the embryo with the initial nourishment because it not only sprouts but develops. In England and Belgium, real schools have arisen to educate the highly sought after orchid makers from the large floriculture establishments that manufacture the thousands of plants required by professionals for the cultivation of cut flowers. The reproduction of wild orchids takes place in the laboratory, which is a veritable technical miracle, by means of an infinitesimal particle of the active apical vegetation of an orchid plant identified with the help of the microscope called multiplication by meristem. The taken vegetable particle is put in culture in a vial with a special nutrient solution.
Most known wild orchids
About twenty kinds of wild orchids are part of the protected flora because in recent years they have become increasingly rare due to an indiscriminate collection, from which not even the species that are sporadic and therefore more rare and which should have been protected were saved. and keep more carefully. A type of wild orchid not very showy it is considered by botanists as the only true alpine species; it is the Chamaeochis Alpinus, present in Italy and in the Alps. However, among the species of wild orchids we can remember: the Cypripedium calceolus, indifferently called "shoe of Venus" or the Malaxis present in the humid places of the mountains whose slopes are covered with conifers, characterized by small greenish flowers and a single elongated oval leaf; another species is the Platanthera Bifolia, whose white flowers give off perfume only in the evening and at night. Also very beautiful and requested because it stands out among the wild orchids is the Nigritella Nigra undoubtedly, since it has flowers of a purple color with blackish shades in an oval and conical shape.
The colors of wild orchids
The wild orchids in their innumerable species present themselves with various colors such as the Miltonia Hybrida which is native to the temperate zones of Brazil and is a splendid purple-colored orchid with an image resembling a mottled butterfly. Another very particular specimen for its shape and color is the Cymbidium orchid which made European botanists go crazy because they could not cultivate it in Europe although it was very popular with the public. It has four large leaves with a central flower similar to a butterfly. Another example is the Cattleya Rosa introduced in Europe for the first time in 1814 by the homonymous discoverer passionate English florist. This is available with white petals and a stem that can reach a length of up to three meters. Finally, the Cypripedium is the most widespread and well-known orchid genus in the world above all because it has the advantage of lasting for a long time in a vase as a cut flower. Among the countries that produce the greatest number of wild orchids in the world is undoubtedly the Brazilian island of Santo Amaro, where it is believed that the most beautiful orchids of the entire planet are born.