Environment The Daly News, Friday, January 3,1997 19
Orchids combine beauty, variety
In the plant kingdom. Orchi-
daceae is one of the largest plant
families. There are some 30.000 to Olasee
35,000 species of orchids through- Davis
out the world and a number of man-
The orchid is the most advanced
among the monocotyledon plant
family, which includes those plants
that develop out of one first leaf. his book. "Enquiry into Plants."
Characteristics of the orchid family John Lindley is the father of
include having many roots of equal orchidology. His work in the 1800s
thickness and length, a large num- formed the basis on which all mod-
ber of parallel veins of equal size in erm systems of orchid classification
their leaves, and floral parts in are founded.
threes or multitudes of three. On St. Croix. you can find
Orchids grow in a variety of orchids blooming from the virgin
shapes, sizes and colors in the wild. northwest forest to the south shores,
Flowers of some species can be to the central mountains and the
large as one foot long or as small as eastern hills. There are about five
a pin head. They can grow on rocks, varieties of orchids growing wild on
trees, bushes and in the soil. Some St. Croix.
species even bloom from under- While there are more varieties of
ground. orchids native to St. Thomas. it is
The blooms of orchids depend rare to find any growing wild. due
on the species and season of the to man's impact on the environment
year. Some blooms can last as little during the early settlement of the
as five minutes or as long as 9 island. The reproduction system of
months. orchids in the wild depends on pol-
In the tropical world, most lination by insects, including flies,
orchids prefer to live atop other butterflies, wasps, bees and hum.
plants, while in temperate regions mingbirds.
they are mostly terrestrial. A few Some pollinators are attracted by
varieties will live off of dead or the shape and color of the plant's
decaying matter below ground. flower. Ordinarily, the pollinator is
The term orchid was derived species specific. Bees are attracted
from the Greek word orchis. The to violet, white, blue, purple, and
name orchis was first mentioned in yellow flowers, while they are color
370 to 285 BC by Theophrastus in blind to red. Birds and butterflies
are attracted to red. Moths are
attracted to cream, white, and
One of the most remarkable
characteristics of the orchid family
is its adaptation to cross pollination,
a byproduct of insect activity.
Insects are attracted by a flower and
stimulated to satisfy one of the
ever-present dynamic urges of
nature: hunger and sex.
Most flowers of orchid species
provide either edible tissue or, nec-
tar as an attractant for visiting
insects. Upon leaving, the insect
must come in contact with a flow-
er's anther, thus becoming bur-
dened with another load of pollen.
which it carries to the stigmas of the
next flower visited.
After fertilization, seeds are pro-
duced. Orchid seeds are the small-
est of all the flowering plants. Seeds
are carried by the wind and rely on
a symbiotic relationship with a fun-
gus in the soil to germinate.
This seemingly haphazard pro-
cess has carried on for centuries. If
you are interested in growing
orchids, join the Orchid Society of
the Virgin Islands. For more infor-
mation contact the extension ser-
vice on St. Thomas. at 693-1080; or
on St. Croix. at 778-9491.
Olasee Davis, who holds a mas-
ter of science degree in range man-
agement and forestry ecology, is a
St. Croix ecologist, activist and