Sepik blue orchids in a row

Orchids

Orchids are the most cosmopolitan of flowering plant families, found everywhere on Earth except dry deserts and cold glaciers. They are thought to be one of the largest flowering plant families and contain around 25,000 species. They are most numerous in the world's tropical areas where big, showy flowers are produced, although the flowers of species found elsewhere are no less beautiful. Orchids have developed some highly specialized pollination systems, often producing attractively shaped and colourful flowers that sometimes look similar to the insects that pollinate them. Some species of orchid are now very rare.

Scientific name: Orchidaceae

Rank: Family

Common names:

Orchid family

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Distribution

The Orchids can be found in a number of locations including: Amazon Rainforest, Australia, China, Europe, Indian subcontinent, Madagascar, North America, Russia, South America, United Kingdom, Wales, Ynys-hir nature reserve. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.

Explore this group

Bee orchids Bee orchids
Bee orchids are fascinating and beautiful plants that certainly live up to their name: each flower looks like it has a female bee or wasp resting on it. These modified petals also smell like female bees, emitting enticing chemical signals.

Behaviours

Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

When they lived

Discover the other animals and plants that lived during the following geological time periods.

BBC News about Orchids

Video collections

Take a trip through the natural world with our themed collections of video clips from the natural history archive.

  • Timelapse photography: speeding up life Timelapse photography: speeding up life

    Some of the most memorable sequences in natural history result from timelapse photography, an astonishing filming technique that opens our eyes to a whole new world.

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