Exactly how do Orchids grow in the wild?
This photograph shows how many beautiful Orchids from the genus Phalaenopsis manage it.
In the Southeast Asian rainforests where they originate, these orchids grow in trees without robbing nutrients from the tree. In fact, they often contribute to the tree. Botanists call plants like these epiphytes, and they are absolutely critical to the life of the rainforest.
But how on earth can Orchids feed on thin air?
Because rainforest air isn’t thin! The Orchids hanging on this tree grow extensive root systems into the air, which collect amazing an amazing water supply from rain, then store it in their thick stems, succulent leaves and petals. Since they grow high in the forest canopy, their leaves also gather plenty of sunlight.
But wait, you’re thinking! How can you suck nutrients from thin air? Believe it or not, rainforests offer huge amounts of nutrients in the dust particles that rise up as the rain patters down!
Plus, the rain itself is chock full of precious nutrients! Not long ago, Brazilian Botanists carefully measured the mineral content of rainforest rain. In just one hectare of rainforest, they found the rain alone showered down 3 kilos of phosphorus, 2 kilos of iron and 10 kilos of nitrogen annually. To me, that’s nothing short of miraculous! (source: http://jrscience.wcp.muohio.edu/fieldcourses07/PapersCostaRicaArticles/Epiphytes.Anecosystemcont.html)
But it gets even better. The orchid itself is a real-life kingdom in the air…
Every epiphyte in the rainforest is a microhabitat peopled with its own population of tiny insects, spiders and other small animals. Canopy-dwelling epiphytes like orchids are so important a part of rainforest life that, when you walk on the floor of a rainforest, it’s more like you’re walking underground!
The story goes that, back in the year 1825, a Dutch Botanist named D.C. Blume was walking through a rainforest in Java, when he saw a cluster of butterflies floating motionless above him. Walking closer, he discovered they were flowers! He christened them “Phalaenopsis,” meaning “moth-like” —and this is how the orchids in my photograph got their scientific name.
CONFESSION: I didn’t visit Java to shoot these photographs…
These Orchids and the beautiful Cycad palm in whose branches they grow, can currently be seen in the East Wing of the Longwood Gardens main Conservatory.
It’s a breathtaking display that re-creates what Blume might have seen on his rainforest walk 200 years ago. SWIPE LEFT for a close-up of one Orchid cluster…
Then tell me what YOU think of this spectacle! Boring or miraculous or something in between? Please tell me with your COMMENT and LIKE, dear Follower! Because YOU are why I shoot these photos!
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