WHAT KIND OF ORCHID IS IT?
Orchid Growth Patterns

by Linda Fortner

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            I often receive letters from people asking for help with their orchids. One of the biggest problems I have is trying to find out what kind of orchid they are talking about. It's often essential to know this if I am to give any advice concerning its care because each type sometimes require different treatments.

            With this in mind, I have put together this small primer for the beginner who has just purchased their first orchid. I hope it will help all of you identify the type of an orchid you have. The orchid family has over 50,000 species, but to simplify things I have only listed the most commonly sold orchids.

            Orchids are generally categorized by the way they grow. There are two patterns of growth: Sympodial and Monopodial.

SYMPODIAL ORCHIDS

            Orchids with a sympodial growth pattern usually grow in a horizontal direction like a creeping vine. The stem is called a rhizome. The rhizome lies horizontal to the surface of the ground and sprout roots along its length in a downward direction and produce thickened vertical stems called pseudobulbs. Each pseudobulb will generally have one or two leaves at its top.

            New growth begins at the base of the leading pseudoblub from a place called an "eye." Many of these orchids also form a specialized leaf-like structure called a sheath at the base of the leaves of the leading pseudobulb in which the flower is formed.

The most common Sympodial orchids are:
Cattleya
(KAT-lee-a)
Cymbidium
(sim-BID-ee-um)
Dendrobium
(den-DROH-bee-um)
Miltonia
(mil-TOH-nee-a)
Odontoglossum
(o-don-toh-GLOSS-um)
Oncidium
(on-SID-ee-um)
Paphiopedilum
(paff-i-e-PEE-di-lum)

MONOPODIAL ORCHIDS

            Orchids with monopodial growth grow upward from a single point. Growing taller, in a single direction from a single stem as it matures. They add a few leaves each year and the flowers generally come from between the leaves. They do not have a rhizome or pseudobulbs.

The most common of the monopodial orchids are:
Phalaenopsis
(fal-en-OP-siss)
Vanda
(VAN-DA)
Angraecum
(an-GRYE-kum)


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Copyright 1996-2002 Linda Fortner. All rights reserved.
Contents may not be copied or reproduced without prior permission.

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