Using the molecular clock method, it was possible to determine the age of the major branches of the orchid family. This also confirmed that the subfamily Vanilloideae is a branch at the basal dichotomy of the monandrous orchids, and must have evolved very early in the evolution of the family. Since this subfamily occurs worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions, from tropical America to tropical Asia, New Guinea and West Africa, and the continents began to split about 100 million years ago, significant biotic exchange must have occurred after this split (since the age of Vanilla is estimated at 60 to 70 million years).
Always use a water breaker (a water diffuser that you attach to the front of your hose to soften the flow of water): For only a few orchids, a sprinkling can with a long spout with a rose (a water diffuser placed on the end of the water-can spout) that has many small holes works well. These devices allow thorough watering without washing out the potting material.
Cool growing Colombian Orchids - Photos of Orchids in situ near Bogota' Colombia - #1 Epidendrum sp., #2 Epidendrum polystachyum",#2 Epidendrum polystachyum young plant,#3 Epidendrum excisum in flower, Epidendrum excisum Same plant,#4 Epidendrum secundum., Maxillaria sp., Pleurothallis sp.and Odontoglossum lindenii ,Odontoglossum ramulosum, Odontoglossum ramulosum flowercloseup

The orchid family is an incredibly large and diverse plant family, with more than 25,000 different species and more than 150,000 registered hybrids. The variation within a single species can be significant, let alone across the entire family. But with a little practice, knowledge, and observation, almost anyone can identify the most common types of orchids. Identifying one orchid from the next will be helpful in understanding what conditions they prefer and how to grow and flower them well. Happy growing!

Along with the Asteraceae, they are one of the two largest families of flowering plants. The Orchidaceae have about 28,000 currently accepted species, distributed in about 763 genera.[2][3] The determination of which family is larger is still under debate, because verified data on the members of such enormous families are continually in flux. Regardless, the number of orchid species nearly equals the number of bony fishes and is more than twice the number of bird species, and about four times the number of mammal species.
Brassia, Comparettia, Odontoglossum, Polystachya, Cochleanthes, Tolumnia, Trichocentrum, Brassavola, Psychilis CC Image courtesy of Arne and Bent Larsen on Wikimedia Commons  |  Catasetum, Cymbidium CC Image courtesy of http://www.larsen-twins.dk on Wikimedia Commons  |  Cephalanthera CC Image courtesy of Sramey on Wikimedia Commons  |  Dichaea, Eulophia, Galeandra, Trichoglottis, Lycaste, Stanhopea, Caularthron, Domingoa, Prosthechea, Dendrobium, Goodyera, Stenorrhynchos, Pogonia, Gymnadenia CC Image courtesy of Orchi on Wikimedia Commons  |  Dipodium CC Image courtesy of David Lochlin on Flickr  |  Ionopsis, Campylocentrum CC Image courtesy of Maarten Sepp on Flickr  |  Macradenia CC Image courtesy of Maarten Sepp on Flickr  |  Koellensteinia CC Image courtesy of Alex Popovkin on Flickr  |  Leochilus CC Image courtesy of Marcos Antonio Campacci on Wikimedia Commons  |  Oeceoclades, Bletia, Chiloschista, Renanthera, Miltonia, Brachionidium, Cattleya, Lepanthopsis, Nidema, Scaphyglottis, Trichosalpinx, Eria, Coelogyne, Cyclopogon, Eltroplectris, Eurystyles, Platythelys, Prescottia, Psilochilus, Triphora, Paphiopedilum CC Image courtesy of Dalton Holland Baptista on Wikimedia Commons  |  Oncidium CC Image courtesy of Calyponte on Wikimedia Commons  |  Arethusa CC Image courtesy of Chris Meloche on Wikimedia Commons  |  Arundina CC Image courtesy of Kevin Gepford on Wikimedia Commons  |  Calopogon CC Image courtesy of Bob Peterson on Flickr  |  Cleisostoma CC Image courtesy of Earth100 on Wikimedia Commons  |  Dendrophylax CC Image courtesy of Mick Fournier on Wikimedia Commons and CC Image courtesy of Big Cypress National Preserve on Flickr  |  Micropera, Crepidium CC Image courtesy of Raabbustamante on Wikimedia Commons  |  Taeniophyllum CC Image courtesy of Airborne Pilot on Flickr  |  Corallorhiza CC Image courtesy of Wsiegmund on Wikimedia Commons  |  Maxillaria CC Image courtesy of Walter on Flickr  |  Govenia CC Image courtesy of Sanfelipe on Wikimedia Commons  |  Isochilus CC Image courtesy of Patricia Harding on Wikimedia Commons  |  Lepanthes CC Image courtesy of Quimbaya on Flickr  |  Elleanthus CC Image courtesy of Philipp Weigell on Wikimedia Commons  |  Pleurothallis CC Image courtesy of KENPEI on Wikimedia Commons  |  Restrepiella CC Image courtesy of Moises Béhar on Wikimedia Commons  |  Bulbophyllum CC Image courtesy of Montrealais on Wikimedia Commons Calanthe CC Image courtesy of Qwert1234 on Wikimedia Commons  |  Phaius CC Image courtesy of Hectonichus on Wikimedia Commons  |  Spathoglottis CC Image courtesy of Vaikoovery on Wikimedia Commons  |  Calypso CC Image courtesy of Walter Siegmund on Wikimedia Commons  |  Tipularia CC Image courtesy of TheAlphaWolf on Wikimedia Commons  |  Malaxis CC Image courtesy of Bernd Haynold on Wikimedia Commons  |  Oberonia CC Image courtesy of Ramesh Meda on Flickr  |  Anoectochilus CC Image courtesy of Badlydrawnboy22 on Wikimedia Commons  |  Cranichis CC Image courtesy of Americo Docha Neto on Wikimedia Commons  |  Mesadenus, Pteroglossaspis CC Image courtesy of NC Orchid on Flickr  |  Pelexia CC Image courtesy of Elena Gaillard on Wikimedia Commons Ponthieva CC Image courtesy of Jose Lacruz on Wikimedia Commons  |  Spiranthes CC Image courtesy of Eric in SF on Wikimedia Commons  |  Zeuxine CC Image courtesy of Panoso on Wikimedia Commons Dactylorhiza CC Image courtesy of Uoaei1 on Wikimedia Commons  |  Habenaria CC Image courtesy of J.M.Garg on Wikimedia Commons  |  Ophrys, Pseudorchis CC Image courtesy of Hans Hillewaert on Wikimedia Commons  |  Orchis CC Image courtesy of Algirdas on Wikimedia Commons  |  Platanthera CC Image courtesy of Enrico Blasutto on Wikimedia Commons  |  Epipactis CC Image courtesy of Dcrjsr on Wikimedia Commons  |  Listera CC Image courtesy of Superior National Forest on Flickr  |  Sobralia CC Image courtesy of João Medeiros on Flickr  |  Broughtonia CC Image courtesy of Walter on Flickr Masdevallia CC Image courtesy of trixty on Flickr  |  Isotria CC Image courtesy of Jason Hollinger on Flickr  |  Flickingeria CC Image courtesy of Averater on Wikimedia Commons  |  Cleistesiopsis CC Image courtesy of Charly Lewisw on Wikimedia Commons  |  Cypripedium montanum CC Image courtesy of Bill Bouton on Flickr  |  Cypripedium reginae CC Image courtesy of Orchi on Wikimedia Commons  |  Disperis, Encyclia, Epidendrum, Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla barbellata CC Image courtesy of Malcolm Manners on Flickr  |  Govenia CC Image courtesy of Bosque Village on Flickr  |  Psychopsis CC Image courtesy of LadyDragonflyCC – >;< on Flickr  |  Aplectrum CC Image courtesy of Fritz Flohr Reynolds on Flickr

Because these orchids are top-heavy with lots of blooms on each stem, this type of orchid often requires staking. There are over 1,000 species in this category, and they usually come in colors such as white, lavender, or yellow. One of its biggest advantages is the fact that it can grow almost anywhere, regardless of the zone you live in, and some of them keep their leaves all year long. They can also come in more than one color per bloom, which makes them especially attractive.

Do a finger test. This is the best way to determine whether an orchid needs more water. Stick your pinky finger into the potting mix, taking care not to disturb the orchid's roots. If you don't feel any moisture, or you feel just a little, it's time to water the orchid. If you feel moist potting mix right away, give it more time. When in doubt, you should wait an extra day.


The Gongora orchid genus is a really neat type of orchids, related to Stanhopea. They have nice, strong fragrances, often of cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg. The flower stems hang over the pot's edge and the flowers point downwards. They can adapt to a wide variety of lighting conditions and a relatively large temperature range, but like a lot of water.


Grammatophyllum speciosum is the largest type of orchid and grows up to three meters in height. The world’s most expensive orchid, Shenzhen Nongke, sold for $200,000 at an auction in 2005 and is named after the university that developed it for eight years. Sri Lanka’s Kadupul flower, on the other hand, is considered the most priceless because it blooms just once a year in the night and withers before dawn breaks.

Phalaenopsis, the Moth Orchid, is one of the most commonly available and easiest to grow orchid genera. It is an especially good choice for beginners to orchid growing. They have large, showy flowers that come in a wide variety of colors. Most species have several flowers per stem, but some have more, and others have as few as one or two. There are a great many hybrid varieties on the market.


^ Guillaume Chomicki; Luc P.R. Bidel; Feng Ming; Mario Coiro; Xuan Zhang; Yaofeng Wang; Yves Baissac; Christian Jay-Allemand & Susanne S. Renner (2015). "The velamen protects photosynthetic orchid roots against UV‐B damage, and a large dated phylogeny implies multiple gains and losses of this function during the Cenozoic". New Phytologist. 205 (3): 1330–1341. doi:10.1111/nph.13106.
Cool growing Colombian Orchids - Photos of Orchids in situ near Bogota' Colombia - #1 Epidendrum sp., #2 Epidendrum polystachyum",#2 Epidendrum polystachyum young plant,#3 Epidendrum excisum in flower, Epidendrum excisum Same plant,#4 Epidendrum secundum., Maxillaria sp., Pleurothallis sp.and Odontoglossum lindenii ,Odontoglossum ramulosum, Odontoglossum ramulosum flowercloseup
The sizes of the plant and its pot are also major factors to take into account in determining watering frequency. A smaller pot holding less potting mixture dries out more quickly than a larger pot holding more potting mixture. Meanwhile, a smaller plant takes up water less rapidly than a larger plant. Careful observation is, once again, the best way to know how to water your phalaenopsis orchid.
The den-phal type are warm growing year round and do, just by happenstance, bear flowers similar in appearance to the genus Phalaenopsis. They can be distinguished by plant habit (most Dendrobium have pseudobulbs that resemble tall canes) and flower shape. Den-phals have a spur at the back of the lip; some are more pronounced, others less. They are also borne on very strong upright to barely arching stems. Interesting to note, den-phals can rebloom on old canes.
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Orchid flowers primitively had three stamens, but this situation is now limited to the genus Neuwiedia. Apostasia and the Cypripedioideae have two stamens, the central one being sterile and reduced to a staminode. All of the other orchids, the clade called Monandria, retain only the central stamen, the others being reduced to staminodes (4). The filaments of the stamens are always adnate (fused) to the style to form cylindrical structure called the gynostemium or column (2). In the primitive Apostasioideae, this fusion is only partial; in the Vanilloideae, it is more deep; in Orchidoideae and Epidendroideae, it is total. The stigma (9) is very asymmetrical, as all of its lobes are bent towards the centre of the flower and lie on the bottom of the column.
These orchids can be planted in orchid bark, moss or a mix (mixes might include bark, small rocks, moss, sponge rock, and even cork). Don’t even think about planting them in the soil. If your orchid is planted in bark you’ll need to water it more often than if it’s planted in moss. The bark will help the water drain with ease where the moss will hold the moisture longer. I prefer the bark or mixes which are predominantly bark because the watering is much easier for me to get right.
Also called Cockleshell orchids, they have no fragrance, but they do bloom for several consecutive months, making them appealing for people who want color in their garden for long periods of time. The Encyclia orchid has dangling petals and sepals, which is why some people say it resembles an octopus. It thrives when planted on an orchid mount because this simulates the epiphytic growing conditions found in the wild, and it comes in colors such as yellow-white with purple throats at the top.

The most common type of orchid is probably the moth orchid, or the Phalaenopsis orchids. These are the plants that you can buy from a standard grocery store. Or if you happen to live close by an Asian supermarket, you will find truck-loads of the white or purplish-pink variety. Some fashion/interior designers even dubbed this purplish-pink color as “orchid.” (This is ultra confusing for an orchid grower, as orchids come in a million different shades and colors, but well, these are the same people who invented colors like sour lemon and spiced mustard. It’s just all marketing!)
This site is compiled from photos collected from growers or photo collectors around the world and I rely on them to try to be sure of their identification. As we all know, however, many plants are mislabeled and growers and collectors can't know all species in every genera, so please be advised that to the best of our knowledge the following ID's are correct. I have hundreds of references, thanks to you all, but often many species are not well represented. I try to the best of my capabilities to be correct but as the adage goes, "To err is human". Many species herewith have been scrutinized by taxonomic experts and will be correct, but this may not be true of all the species described. If you have any questions as to the veracity of any species described in this encyclopedia please e-mail me, Jay Pfahl, at jfal@sprynet.com and we will work at correcting the mistake. As to the text it is compiled by culling notes from hundreds of books and publications [See Bibliography and source books] but it too can be wrong in part due to my mistake or in the often conflicting reports on various orchids.
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