What’s in a Name? The History Behind the Orchid Flower
The species of flower we now know as the orchid flower goes back millions of years. Now there are over 25,000 varieties of orchids known on the planet. Take a walk through the hallowed halls of history right here and learn everything you need to know about the evolution of the orchid flower over millions of years.
What Is an Orchid Flower?
The orchid flower is a flower that was named by Greece as “Orchidaceae” due to the suggestive shape of the flower and its alleged aphrodisiac properties. But the orchid flower we all know today is one that brings both the gifts of beauty and functionality to the table.
The orchid scent alone has been brought into the beauty industry in an amazing way. Orchids also supply the vanilla flavoring used by millions of bakers today.
Orchids also are just beautiful flowers that are enjoyed by gardeners of every walk of life. Some gardeners like to nurture their orchid babies, and others just enjoy the beauty of this flower.
The orchid flower is one that is known to be a perennial, meaning it does not require cross-pollination to keep growing. Orchid lovers that baby their own all day love orchids for this perennial trait of theirs.
Orchids can perform better through pollination by animals or other nearby flowers. But for the most part, they can also perform on their own in the wild as well, without any attention.
They are a strong and resilient plant, and a beautiful sight to behold. View here for more ideas on the varieties of orchid flowers today.
The First Orchid Flowers
The orchid is considered to be one of the first plants to ever flower after the dinosaur age. This puts the first orchid flowers back about two hundred million years.
To give you an idea of how long they have been around, the Paleozoic era existed from 542 million years ago to 250 million years. This was when the first vascular plants began to develop.
Modern plants would begin to arrive around the dinosaur era, from 250 million years ago to 66 million years ago. This is when the first orchid flowers were said to have been in existence.
Confucius Was Infatuated with Orchids
The first orchids that became known as useful to humans were seen in the several hundred years Before Christ. A student of Aristotle first wrote about the orchid flower in a piece entitled “Inquiry into Plants” around the years of 300 B.C.
This was the first time orchids were mentioned in a public print and referred to as by that name.
Confucius was also a philosopher in this era and lived between 551 B.C. and 479 B.C. He was so besotted with orchids that he wrote a poem about them, during the time he was reportedly trying to get a job with the Eastern Zhou emperors.
As the story goes, one day Confucius was walking through the woods and came upon a field of orchids growing wildly. In his poem he referred to the orchids as “noble scholars” of the world, noting they emitted their sensual fragrance whether anybody was around to enjoy it or not.
For Confucius, the resiliency and strength of this flower to bloom wherever without assistance was a metaphor on the human existence of nobility and strength.
Today, they can be given as something romantic on Valentine’s Day, a romantic day celebrated all over the world.
The Orchid Mystery
The orchid flower is one that just in its shape and presence alone evokes a strong sense of this resiliency and strength the orchid has seen over the last several hundred millions of years. This mystery surrounding the orchid is what has led everyone from Confucius to Darwin want to study this flower with intensity.
It is this mystery combined with orchid mania that has kept this flower as a mysterious and beautiful thing still today.
In the early years after Christ, the Greek began noting the flower as one that was an aphrodisiac. It was the Greeks to said that eating the bulbous roots of the flower would help things behind closed doors.
Orchids were also used as medicinal herbs in Asia, and in North America, as recently as the early 1800s. By this century, because the orchid became known as a healer, growing one’s own and being able to transplant it became paramount in homestead farms all over the world.
The orchid wasn’t so much considered a rare beauty in the home then, but rather something with a functional purpose. An orchid then would have held the functional significance of say, a carrot harvested during the farm day.
But orchid mania soon arrived.
It was during Orchid mania when a man serving Queen Victoria became the Queen’s personal orchid grower. His name was Frederick Sander and he reportedly scoured the fields of South America to bring orchids to England.
Frederick Sander contributed to the history of the orchid flower by being the first to go public with a list of orchid hybrids he had developed over his years in orchid mania for the Queen.
This mania also contributed to the great orchid drought, when once blooming orchid fields went dry and barren. By the start of the nineteenth century, only the wealthy could have orchids in the home.
Orchid collecting soon became banned, and a few orchid strains went on the endangered list.
By 1862, Charles Darwin would be publishing his own musings on the pollination of orchids, in his 1862 book “The Fertilization of Orchids.” He was so enchanted by the versatility of this plant, that a Madagascar strain of orchids known as “Angraecum sesquipedale” is colloquially known as “Darwin’s Orchid.”
Darwin was not just interested in how to pollinate orchids, but specifically of the kind of insect it would take to fertilize a plant with a thirteen-inch long stem. The only insect known to man at the time, as Darwin noted, was the Xanthopan morganii praedicta moth with its thirteen-inch long proboscis.
That moth, along with Darwin’s Orchid, is considered still to be a rare find today.
Bloom Where You Plant
The orchid flower is a flower with a life history that goes back millions of years.
It has spent significant portions of its life influencing history as well. Darwin studied the flower intensely. Confucius reportedly used it for spiritual growth.
And today, keeping an orchid going in the privacy of a gardener’s home is a legacy known by millions of families all over the world. Now you know why this plant is so important in society today.
The orchid flower has been bringing joy to millions all over the world for millions of years. They make the perfect gift for gardeners of every walk of love for the planted bloom.
But the orchid flower is a good gift for you to bloom where you plant too, now that you know its importance in history. Follow our blog to learn the 7 reasons you shouldn’t overlook the importance of plants in your home, among many other useful life hacks.