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Types of Orchids: What Are Species Orchids & Why Are They Special?

Types of Orchids: What Are Species Orchids & Why Are They Special?

Posted by Kamaile on May 9th 2023

When you enter the world of orchid growing, you’ll certainly hear the word “species”.

Species (noun) 1. “The fundamental category of taxonomic classification, ranking below a genus or subgenus. Species names are represented in binomial nomenclature by an uncapitalized Latin adjective or noun following a capitalized genus name.” (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.)

One of our favorite examples is the Cattleya walkeriana. (Photo to the right)

C. walkeriana

What exactly is a species orchid?

In orchid terminology, a species orchid is one that has been discovered in nature just as it is. It is essentially a purebred orchid. Only around 28,000 different species in about 763 genera have been recorded and identified throughout the entire planet.

These types of orchids have naturally evolved.

Species of Orchids and their Culture

The temperatures, elevation, lighting, amount and frequency of rainfall, and other factors have played an essential role in these orchids' ability to survive in nature. Each species has made its own adaptation to its geography and will require a similar culture to thrive. Therefore, mirroring the conditions of any species’ origin will be critical to its survival.

As you begin to explore species orchids, you will see that some types may have variations. Geography, ecology, and seasonality can isolate different species populations, and various adaptations may be visible in the flower or plant structure.

So why do hobby orchid growers collect species orchids?

Many enthusiasts find these orchid plants to be an amazing feat of nature. Because only a finite number of species have ever been discovered, many collectors find these especially intriguing.

Where can you find species orchids?

Orchid plants have been found naturally growing on every continent but Antarctica. But most of the species orchids you’ll find at nurseries have not been collected in the wild. Instead, they have been propagated in cultivation through various methods. There is some degree of selection as growers typically choose the more robust growing or blooming plants to propagate by seeds, tissue culture, and cloning.

Relationship Between Species Orchids and Hybrid Orchids

Species orchids are where it all began. Every single hybrid orchid has roots that trace to parental species. Species orchids may be considered more liable to survive neglect if culture remains similar to their origins, while they may also be considered more challenging as mirroring certain cultures may be more difficult depending on your own location. In general, hybrid orchids have been bred “to cater to our needs,” our preferences, and often our living conditions. They are typically more fertile and able to grow more vigorously and produce more flowers, sometimes more frequently.

Whether you find species orchids as fascinating as some hobbyists or find yourself drawn to the unlimited array of beauty and fragrance that hybridization has brought to the orchid world, the ultimate growing experience comes through thriving plants. In whichever category you place yourself, do your best to really get to know your orchids. Research what cultural conditions they prefer, and you can rest assured that they’ll happily and abundantly flower for you as frequently as possible!