Liberal Arts Blog — The Miracle of the Orchid — Diversity, Anatomy, Symbolism

Liberal Arts Blog — Wednesday is the Joy of Science, Engineering, and Technology Day

Today’s Topic — The Miracle of the Orchid — Diversity, Anatomy, Symbolism

I used to think the orchid was an extremely rare, exotic flower. I just found out that on the contrary orchids are “one of the two largest families of flowering plants” with over 28,000 species (which would be “twice the number of bird species”) and 763 genera! In total, they account for “6–11% of all seed plants.” And, as if that were not enough, “horticulturists have produced more than 100,000 hybrids and cultivars.” Today, I decided to learn a little more about orchids and share the results. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. “Like a human face, an orchid flower is bilaterally symmetrical, meaning the left half and right half are a mirror image of one another. There is speculation that this similarity may be one of the reasons people are so fascinated with orchids.”

2. Column: “Located above the lip, the column is where the reproductive organs are housed. Unlike other flowers, most orchids have both male (stamen) and female (pistil) parts.”

3. Sepals: “Often confused for petals, sepals are the outermost parts of an orchid and are actually the remains of the flower bud. There are typically three sepals on an orchid all approximately equal in size.”

NB: Petals: “Orchids consist of three petals positioned between the sepals. Two of these look like your average orchid petal, while the third is actually a highly specialized structure known as the lip.” The purpose of the lip? “to attract and provide a landing platform for the orchid’s pollinators, it is sometimes larger and more colorful.”


1. “The orchid is divided into three or more lobes.”

2. “Some have modified fleshy lumps on the upper surface generally referred to as the callus, with some being divided into multiple ridges or a central keel.”

3. “When the callus is flat and broad, it is sometimes called a plate which can have fringed margins. “

NB: “The callus can be highly modified with striking colors that may aid in pollinator deceit and mimicry.”

NATIONAL FLOWERS: Venezuela, Colombia, Singapore (among others)

1. Venezuela: above is the “Cattleya mossiae” or “flor de mayo” (May flower)

2. Colombia: the “Cattleya Trianae” because like the Colombian flag, the lip is yellow, blue, and red. Also, the flower was named after a Colombian botanist.

3. Singapore: the “Papillonanthe Miss Joaquim” (aka the Singapore orchid, aka the Princess Aloha orchid). Chosen for “its resilience and year round blooming quality” to represent “Singapore’s uniqueness and hybrid culture.”

NB: In Chinese art the “Four Gentlemen” (Junzi) are the orchid, the chrysanthemum, the plum blossom, and bamboo. In terms of the four seasons, the orchid represents spring. the lotus summer, the chrysanthemum autumn, and the plum blossom winter.

Cattleya mossiae

National symbols of Venezuela

Four Gentlemen

Flowers of the Four Seasons


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to science, engineering, or technology. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to science and engineering.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.



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