Orchidaceae Jussieu 1789
The Orchidaceae is the largest Family in the Division Magnoliophyta (flowering plants), with about 25,000 described species, mainly perennial herbs and a few vining species, with a wide distribution in temperate and tropical regions. Many orchids have fleshy pseudobulbs and leaves which enable them to withstand periodic dry periods. Orchid roots rely on infection with symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi for uptake of nutrients. The presence of the appropriate mycorrhizal fungus is essential for the natural germination of the microscopically small seeds, most of which lack food reserves (endosperm).
The Orchidaceae are widely collected and propagated through the horticultural trade and all species are protected under CITES. Numerous hybrids and cultivars have been created. Because of their wide natural distribution, orchids can be grown that are suited for the hot-house, cool greenhouse and even for use as temperate garden plants.
The seed pods of Vanilla planifolia and other species from the genus Vanilla are the natural source of vanillin used as a food flavouring in e.g. ice cream and often thought to have a superior flavour to products made with synthetic vanillin.
Orchids do not usually feature in shows of succulent plants as they have their own specialist societies but many species, especially epiphytes, have adopted the succulent lifestyle with fleshy pseudobulbs that store water and food.