The beautifully exotic orchid is the largest plant family in the world, with more than 30,000 species growing in every part of the globe, except Antarctica. Blossoming into a mixture of vibrant and muted hues, these colourful flowers are loved wherever they bloom. Did you know that the vanilla plant is part of the orchid family?
Originating from Asia, orchids are a familiar sight in gardens all over Seychelles, where varieties such as Vanda Papilionanthe Teres, the spider orchid Arachnis Flos-aeris, red Renanthera orchids and the ground orchid Spathoglottis Plicata flourish in the tropical climate.
Many orchid species are widespread throughout the Western Indian Ocean islands, Africa and Asia. Seychelles has several interesting and unique species: there are around 30 native species, with six of them believed to be endemic to the islands.
Nineteen of the 30 native species are epiphytic (meaning that they grow on trees), lithophytic (growing on rocks) and climbers. Growing in the mountains at higher altitudes and surround by moss and shrouded by mist, some are inconspicuous plants with small flowers.
Of all the species of orchid, it's likely that most people will only recognise two of them - the Seychelles' national flower, tropicbird orchid (Angraecum Eburneum) and the leafless Vanilla Phalaenopsis, which has long green stems that snake up trees and over rocks.
Both these species produce the largest blooms among the native orchids. Unfortunately, this has led to lower numbers of these flowers in accessible areas, as people pick them.
The other species of orchid are small-flowered varieties, two of which are believed to be endemic. The Hederorkis Seychellensis is a unique plant growing in mountain forests among mosses on trees. It produces small sprays of pink and white flowers and is related to another species believed to be endemic, the Polystachya Bicolor. More widespread, this species grows in mountain forests and even on exposed boulders in full sunlight, producing bright pink flowers that grow in clusters.
A large group of orchids - which actually contains more than 18,000 species worldwide - and one of the most interesting variants is the Bulbophyllum Genus. With small flowers that produce a very strong scent to attract flies for pollination, three of the species are widespread in Seychelles. The perfume produced by the orchids varies but many produce a fragrant aroma in the evening to attract moths to pollinate their flowers.
One of the most common orchids across Seychelles is the Dendrobium Crumenatum. Its white flowers last for only one day but it is self-pollinating, which increases the rate at which it spreads as the wind disperses its seeds. It grows almost all over Mahé, from the mountain tops to the coastal areas.
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