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Monkey face orchids

Monkey face orchids vary in color from deep chocolate to light beige and nearly any shade in between. Some are even pink or purple. The flowers form in clusters. Blooms release a citrus scent reminiscent of oranges. These wonderful orchids come from the south-eastern Ecuadorian and Peruvian cloud forests from elevations of 1000 to 2000 meters. These unusual orchids come to us from the cloud forests of Ecuador and Peru where they grow wild at elevations of 3000 to 6000 feet. They are not season-dependent and produce blooms at any time of the year. They prefer high humidity and low light conditions.

A cloud forest, also called a fog forest, is a generally tropical or subtropical, evergreen, montane, moist forest characterized by a persistent, frequent or seasonal low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level. Cloud forests often exhibit an abundance of mosses covering the ground and vegetation, in which case they are also referred to as mossy forests. Mossy forests usually develop on the saddles of mountains, where moisture introduced by settling clouds is more effectively retained.

In 1970, the original extent of cloud forests on the Earth was around 50 million hectares. Population growth, poverty and uncontrolled land use have contributed to the loss of cloud forests. Because of their delicate dependency on local climates, cloud forests will be strongly affected by global climate change. Results show that the extent of environmentally suitable areas for cloud forest in Mexico will sharply decline in the next 70 years.[28] A number of climate models suggest low-altitude cloudiness will be reduced, which means the optimum climate for many cloud forest habitats will increase in altitude.[29] Linked to the reduction of cloud moisture immersion and increasing temperature, the hydrological cycle will change, so the system will dry out. This would lead to the wilting and the death of epiphytes, which rely on high humidity. Frogs and lizards are expected to suffer from increased drought.

The Monkey Face Orchid is rare oddity so do not get upset if you’ve never seen one before. It is only found in the cloud forests of Peru and southeastern Ecuador at altitudes of more than 3,000 feet. It can bloom all year round, and its flowers smell like ripe oranges, making it a prized addition to any orchid connoisseurs garden.

Photo courtesy of Dick Culbert

“Dracula” because of it’s two long, fang-like petals and “simia” for its resemblance to primates.The two dark little eyes, fuzzy dotted eyebrows, and  furry little nose and beard area bear striking simian resemblances that become even more apparent when viewed from a distance

Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis amabilis) Photo courtesy of Steve Marr 

With more than 25,000 different kinds of orchids on the planet, it’s no wonder that more than a couple of them made our weird list. The Moth Orchid is the most common type of orchid and bears the name because of its supposed resemblance to a moth in flight. Native to Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and northern Australia, the Moth Orchid isn’t exactly hard to find, and it comes in nearly every color of the rainbow. So what exactly sets it apart from its 24,999+ orchid siblings? The Moth Orchid’s uncanny ability to have multiple blooming periods— when grown in optimal conditions of course!

Corpse Flower (Rafflesia keithii) Photo courtesy of Mike Prince

The Corpse Flower can only be found in the rainforests of Indonesia. It is a parasitic organism that has no visible leaves, roots or stems, causing some to argue that the Corpse Flower is not a flower at all—rather a fungus. In addition to its vampiric traits, it is the world’s largest individual flower. Wondering why it’s nicknamed the Corpse Flower - just do not breathe in its scent too deeply.

Naked Man Orchid (Orchis italica) Photo courtesy of Mark Freeth

This little guy also known as the Hanging Man Orchid, native to the Mediterranean regions and resemble tiny little hanging naked men, from their dotted eyes and smiles right down to their you-know-whats. Naked Man Orchids come in all sizes and usually range in color from light purplish white to deep purply-pink. The Naked Man Orchid is classified as having a threatened status, perhaps because of its popularity as an antidiarrheal, antiflatulent and aphrodisiac. Another crazy fact about these fun flowers: they’re used in making the drink Salep, also called Turkish Delight.

Dancing Girls (Impatiens bequaertii)

These little beauties are one of the rarest flowers around and prove quite hard to find even for the most determined plant collector. Nicknamed for their resemblance to dancing ladies in dresses, these tiny flowers are native to East Africa and come in white and light pink. The plant itself is quite petite, growing to just about one foot across and bearing blooms that max out at ½” long. Dancing Girls trail and climb, so they make lovely additions to hanging planters where you can enjoy their fabulous flowers at eye-level. Dancing Girls will root wherever they touch the soil, and they make excellent indoor plants.

Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) Photo courtesy of Björn Sothmann

This happy little guy gets its name from its uncanny resemblance to a smiling bumblebee; that is if bumblebees could smile. Its name comes from the Greek word “Ophrys” meaning eyebrow, perhaps referring to the fuzzy bits around the edge of the flower.

The Bee Orchid is widespread across  Europe the Middle East and even North Africa. However, it’s becoming more and more scarce because the propagation process is so complicated. You see, the Bee Orchid requires a symbiotic relationship with a particular type of fungus to successfully grow, making transplanting extremely difficult. This orchid is more clever than it appears; the flowers are almost exclusively self-pollinating in the northern ranges but the coloring and shape of the flower mimics the look and smell of a female bee which entices male bees towards it to mate, thus expediting the pollination process!

Swaddled Babies (Anguloa uniflora) Photo courtesy of Tim Waters

These tulip orchids, nicknamed Swaddled Babies, were discovered in the Colombian Andes between 1777-1788 during a ten-year expedition, but weren’t named and officially classified until 1798. During certain times of the plant’s blooming stage, the flowers’ unique shapes resemble that of a baby all wrapped up in white swaddling. Their tempting scent attracts insects to the hinged lip of the petal where the unsuspecting creatures are shoved into the column, where a pack of pollen then attaches itself to their abdomens, increasing pollination.

Parrot Flower (Impatiens psittacina)

The Parrot Flower, a Thailand native, is classified as endangered and therefore not allowed to leave the country. The neat thing about the flower of this rare species of balsam is that when you look at its side profile, it looks just like a parrot or cockatoo in flight! Funny thing is, when images of this flower began to circulate across the Internet they were dismissed as being “digitally manipulated” because very few people had actually seen one since they are so extremely rare in the wild.

Flying Duck Orchid (Caleana major) Photo courtesy of Daniel

This orchid is native to Australia, its unique shape helps increase its pollination. Sawflies are attracted to its scent and land on the “bill”, where their weight forces them down and inside the flower, temporarily curling the “bill” down and in. From there, the only way out is through a pollen-laden section of the flower where the sawfly finds and then emerges from.

Its reddish brownish coloring makes it blend right into the Australian bush. This flower only grows in the wild, in Australia, and has never been propagated. Because in order to grow, it depends symbiotically on a particular type of vegetative fungus that only grows in Australia.

Tiger face in Moon Orchid (Phalaenopsis amabilis) Photo courtesy of Max Fulcher

The moon orchid is one of Indonesia’s three national flowers : the flower of charm, the other two are Jasminum sambac and Rafflesia arnoldii. Usually in nature, the stripings and markings on flowers are evolved to either mimic larger animals in order to scare away predators, or to resemble the genitals of insects in order to attract the most significant number of pollinators and propagate. In this case, the Moon Orchid’s stripes look almost exactly like that of a tiger!

Chamber Maids (Calceolaria uniflora) Photo courtesy of Miguel Viera

Some call it Darwin’s Slipper, other the Happy Alien, and still more call them Chamber Maids. These crazy little mountain flowers are truly one of a kind. Originally discovered by Darwin between 1831 and 1836, the Chamber Maids love cold weather and can still be found in profusion in Tierra del Fuego, South America. The little white “plate” section of the flower tantalizes local birds who eat it and, in doing so, gather pollen on their heads and in turn aid in the pollination of the plant. If you’re on the lookout for this plant be sure to look low; the only grow to be about 4 inches tall with blooms of just 2 inches long.

Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata) Photo courtesy of Sandy

The Passion Flower has more than 400 different varieties and is known as the Clock Flower in India and Japan. When it was first encountered by Spanish missionaries it was given its name because of its likeness to elements in the story of Jesus’s crucifixion which is also called “The Passion”. The Passion Flower produces an incredible scent that is used commercially as well as a tasty fruit, which is used in flavorings for a number of different culinary dishes. Did you know that the Passion Flower is a food source for caterpillars and butterflies and is regularly grown on butterfly farms !

Angel Orchid (Zygopetalum rhein) Photo courtesy of Stefano

Named for its uncanny resemblance to an angel wearing a gown, the Angel Orchid is one of the gems of the orchid world. It was first discovered in 1932 and is native to the grasslands of India. The Angel Orchid is a rather short orchid in stature, topping out at just 5 inches high, with a single heart-shaped leaf that sits flat on the ground. The flowers themselves bloom in clusters ranging from one single orchid flower to five. If “April showers bring May flowers,” it’s the June monsoons we’ve got to thank for the early blooming of Angel Orchids. They are the first kind of orchids to bloom with the onset of monsoon season.

Dove Orchid Or Holy Ghost Orchid (Peristeria elata) Photo courtesy of Malcom Manners

Native to and national flower of Panama, the Dove or Holy Ghost Orchid produces delicately marbled white flowers that, if you look closely, look like they have a small dove with open wings perched inside. While most orchids can be found growing on or near trees, this type of orchid differentiates itself by growing on ground level, sometimes on rocks. The dove inside the flower is so intricate it looks almost like it’s been carved out of ivory. It is nicknamed the Holy Ghost Orchid because in the Bible, the Holy Ghost took the form of a dove. This type of orchid is so highly-sought and over-picked that it is classified as endangered in its native country.

White Egret Orchid (Pecteilis radiata) Photo courtesy of Hiroaki Maeda

Possibly one of the most delicate, intricate of the orchids, the White Egret Orchid looks almost exactly like a White Egret in full flight. The White Egret Orchid is the most distinctive of the orchids and is extremely familiar with plant collectors and gardeners alike. A wild orchid variety, the White Egret Orchid flourishes in Asia and has also proven to successfully flourish in the United States as well.

The flying bird-like flowers grow along a single spike, and a single spike can yield up to ten individual flowers and has the ability to grow up to sixteen inches tall!

Virgin Mary in Moon Orchid (Phalaenopsis amabilis) Photo courtesy of Ol’Pete

This coastal-loving orchid comes almost exclusively in white and glitters as if covered in frost when the sunlight hits it. At first it appears to be a common Moth Orchid, but upon closer inspection it looks like a teeny carving of the Catholic Madonna has been placed inside. Something you may not know about the Virgin Orchid is that it makes an excellent home for ants! That’s right, the bulbous bottom of the plant, and the pseudo bulbous area below new stem growth are actually hollow and filled with tunnels and caverns, making perfect natural homes for ants.


Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera) Photo courtesy of Robert Shell
The Fly Orchid is a relatively widespread type of European orchid that grows to be between 11 and 15 inches tall with flowers that look like little flies, with big, black, bug eyes and all. But that is not where this orchid gets its name from. The Fly Orchid is named such because it was discovered that it attracts flies and aphids. In fact, its tuber can be dried and turned into Salep which is said to be very nutritious. How does it attract flies and insects so well you ask? By secreting pheromones!




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