The Living Rainforest




Thousands of species

There are more than 25,000 documented orchid species throughout the world, with hundreds more being discovered each year. This means the number of orchid species on the planet is four times the number of birds and four times the number of mammals!

Orchids can be found throughout the world, and can survive in different kind of habitats. Most species live in tropical rainforests, but they can also be found close to the Arctic Circle.

Seeds like dust

There can be up to three million seeds in a single orchid seedpod. You’ll never see them though, they are the size of a speck of dust and are only visible under a microscope. Part of the reason for their small size is that they lack an endosperm to provide the nutrients needed to germinate. This means they can only germinate and grow when they come into contact with the right kind of fungus.



Good enough to eat

Probably the best known type of orchid is Vanilla planifolia, the popular vanilla food flavouring is extracted from its pods. The vanilla planifolia is the only commercially grown orchid crop.


vanda 1
Vanda or Vanda Orchid is a highly prized orchid valued for its large, fragrant, and long lasting flowers that come in many rich and vibrant colours, including blue, red, pink and yellow. They require little to no soil, as their roots take nutrients and moisture form the air and their flowers grow to be up to four inches in diameter. They come from Australasia and the Pacific Islands.
bulbophyllum orchid
Bulbophyllum is the largest genus in the orchid family Orchidaceae. Believed to have originated in Papua New Guinea, this genus is popular worldwide. With more than 2,000 species, it is also one of the largest genera of flowering plants, exceeded only by Astragalus. The flowers can be very large, and many of them have pungent scents that range from rotting carcasses to dung, and this is due to the fact that they attract flies to pollinate them.
paphiopedilum purpurascens
Slipper Orchids unusually shaped petals can look like pitchers or slippers as their name suggests. Slipper orchids is the name that covers two large genus of orchids Phragmidedium and Pathiopedilum. 99% of Asian slipper orchids are threatened with extinction in the wild.


Quick facts

Scientific name
Native to
Around the world
Rainforest layer
Varies depending on species
Varies from a few milimetres to a few metres
Plant family
IUCN conservation status
Varies for different species – learn more


Many species of orchid are disapearing or threatened with extinction. For example 99% of Asian slipper orchids are threatened. The causes include habitat fragmentation and destruction, deforestation and illegal logging. An additional huge concern is that people are collecting these species from the wild for regional and international trade – and although this trade is illegal the rules are often not enforced.