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Phalaenopsis in the natural environment – how do orchids grow in the wild?

Phalaenopsis in the natural environment – how do orchids grow in the wild

Domestic orchids are found everywhere. They are bought in specialized stores, given as gifts and brought from exotic countries. But half a century ago, they lived only in the wild and did not survive at home.

Orchids in the natural environment

The orchid is one of the oldest flowers on earth. It is established that they existed over 65 million years ago, at the end of the Mesozoic Era. The flower was given its name as early as the fifth to sixth centuries BC when it was mentioned in a pharmaceutical treatise. Today, scientists know of more than 35,000 species of this plant found in nature.

Wild orchids are unpretentious and can grow on tree trunks, in the ground or on bare rocks. In addition, they differ from each other in such characteristics:

  • climatic habitat zones;
  • appearance and size;
  • the coloration of their buds and leaves.

Their habitat is unusually wide, they are found practically on all continents of the Earth. The maximum accumulation and diversity of plants is observed in tropical latitudes. It is the tropical climate is optimal for the active growth and development of these flowers.

As a rule, orchid plants have a long upright stem with a varying number of flowers. The leaves of some species, due to their thickness, accumulate a sufficient amount of nutrients. The color of the foliage can be monochrome or with a pattern, and some varieties have no foliage at all. Buds of various shapes and colors can reach 30 cm in diameter.

Where does Phalaenopsis grow in the wild?

The most common variety among lovers of decorative plants is Phalaenopsis. This flower is loved by flower growers for its beauty and unpretentiousness. In nature there are about 70 species of Phalaenopsis, living in different conditions. All of them are united by the presence of an aerial root system.

Contrary to popular belief, orchids are not parasites that feed on the bark and sap of the trees on which they live. Their roots sustain the flower by obtaining moisture from the atmosphere. Nutrients come from fungal growths found on the surface of bark, moss and fallen leaves. In addition, their root system is actively involved in photosynthesis.


Because Phalaenopsis has an aerial root system, it can only be found in equatorial and mountainous areas. These are characterized by high temperatures and have high levels of humidity. The original habitat of this flower is considered to be the Southeast areas of Asia.

Most of all Phalaenopsis can be found in such countries:

  • China;
  • Philippines;
  • New Guinea;
  • Indonesia.

One of the cult places of this culture can be considered Thailand. In this country, the plant can be found literally everywhere: on trees, stones, rocks, in cities and towns. In addition to the widespread distribution of the flower in the natural environment, there are special farms in the Kingdom of Thailand. In them everyone can get acquainted with the abundance of varieties and buy something to his taste.

Favorable conditions

Phalaenopsis feel most comfortable in tropical climates. It is in the tropics where the largest and most colorful specimens can be found. Despite their ability to settle on the branches of trees, they do not tend to climb higher, preferring to settle in the lower tier of the forest.

The following are considered ideal conditions for normal growth and development of the flower:

  • the absence of sharp temperature fluctuations;
  • temperature regime from 66,2 to 82,4° F;
  • high humidity (the presence of any body of water is especially welcome);
  • shady area, excluding direct sunlight.

An acute need for Phalaenopsis is the presence of support. The best option may be tree branches. But if the flower experiences a lack of sunlight, it can settle on stones or rocks. But only if the atmosphere contains a sufficient amount of moisture.

How does a wild orchid grow?

In the natural environment, wild orchids behave differently. Their appearance depends directly on their mode of existence, which is determined by their habitat. The mode of existence means the position of the flower (especially its root system) in which the plant fully receives all the necessary nutrients, moisture and sunlight.

Several groups of orchids:

  1. Lithophytes. The least common group. Plants are arranged on rocks and mountain ledges, open to rain and wind. A separate category includes psilophytes, which grow on limestone slopes. The flowers and leaves of these plants are usually smaller than those of representatives of other groups, they grow upward and sideways.
  2. Terrestrial orchids. Have a traditional root system buried in the ground. Most often found in temperate climates. They look like common wildflowers or garden flowers growing upright.
  3. Saprophytes. A group of orchids that grow underground. These plants have no leaves or chlorophyll, only a thick white-colored rhizome. Dispense with sun and parasitize the shrub through the mediation of a fungus. The bud is a complex inflorescence with a strong pleasant fragrance.
  4. Epiphytes. A group of plants that have an aerial root system that participates in photosynthesis on a par with the foliage. The open roots of the flower braid the trunks of trees, clinging to irregularities in the bark, or are fixed on stones. Most orchid plants belong to the group of epiphytes. They differ in the variety of colors and size of buds. Due to the abundance of flowers on the peduncle, they often grow in large clusters, hanging down from trees.

Why do orchids grow on trees?

Since most orchids found in their natural habitat are epiphytic plants, they are forced to find optimal support for normal activity. The trunk and branches of trees (especially those growing in tropical forests) are the best options for placement for several reasons:

the unevenness of the bark allows the flower to securely attach itself to the tree;

the abundance of microorganisms living on the wood provides the flower with a constant supply of nutrients;

placement on the branches gives the flower stalks unlimited room to grow;

tree tops protect the plant from direct sunlight.

How indoor orchids differ from wild orchids

Some species of cultivated orchids, thanks to the efforts of breeders, have an unusual color and shape of petals. Despite the large size of the indoor flower, their number is significantly inferior to the specimens living in the natural environment. On one peduncle of wild Phalaenopsis can grow up to a hundred flowers. This is natural, because wild plants receive nutrition and moisture in unlimited amounts and the required composition.

In addition to the external difference between the two plants, there are several other features:

  • Orchid blooming in the wild is practically uninterrupted, while flowering of the indoor plant occurs 2-3 times a year after reaching a certain age and with proper care. There are a number of reasons why a house flower may stop blooming altogether.
  • In the natural environment, orchids can live up to 100 years, while the life of a houseplant is much shorter.
  • The house flower lacks the ability to reproduce by seed. To get an adult blooming plant, you need to grow it in laboratory conditions for more than one year.


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