Of all the many plant families that exist on earth, the orchid family may be the largest, with over 25,000 different varieties. They are not only diverse, but also possess a beauty rarely matched in the world of flora. They are also used in art, design, medicine and cooking, and are always stunning to behold. These photos capture only a tiny number of the specimens this broad family offers, but each is beautiful in its own right.
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1. Monkey Face Orchid
2. Ghost Orchid
Some orchids can be eaten, and, in fact, vanilla is in the orchid family, so it's a safe bet that you've eaten orchids before.
3. Flying Duck Orchid
4. Tropical Lady’s Slipper Orchid
Orchids thrive in a number of environments, depending on the type. Some breeds grow on rocks, some only underground, some in the soil, but most grow on other plants and on trees.
5. Bartholina ethelae
6. The Naked Man Orchid
"If I see an orchid that's fantastically expensive, I'll buy it. It's worth it, for no other reason than it gives me pleasure." Lee Radziwill
7. Butterfly Orchid
8. Masdevallia Caudivolvula
Orchids can be found pretty much anywhere around the world, except for Antarctica. They can even be found growing in the arctic circle. How amazing!
9. Dracula vampira
10. Burana Angel
Orchids may be one of the largest families of plants, but their seeds are some of the smallest, most no bigger than a speck of dust.
11. Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid
12. White Egret Orchid
Researchers have found evidence that orchids are as old as some dinosaurs, appearing over 120 million years ago. Now that's a rich family history.
13. Carousel Spider Orchid
14. Bulbophyllum Medusae
While most orchids are common and cheap, the Rothschild's Slipper orchid (shown above) can only be grown in Malaysia and usually goes for about $5,000 a stem.
15. Bulbophyllum Falcatum
16. Veitch's Masdevallia
The ancient Aztecs would use orchids as glue by smashing them into a powder and mixing them with water.
17. Another variety of slipper orchid
18. Bulbophyllum Plumatum
If you want to grow orchids yourselves, a word of warning - you'll need immense patience, as it can take up to 8 years for the flowers to bloom.
19. Another Butterfly Orchid
20. Lepanthes Calodictyon
Orchids developed smart. Some of them actually resemble the females of certain bug species in order to entice males to visit and help with pollination. Some wasps fall so hard for this trick they actually 'have sex' with the orchid.
21. Bee Orchid
22. Restrepia Guttulata
The orchid seeds don't have enough energy to grow by themselves, so they make use of fungus to gain the energy they need to grow and flourish.