With more than 20,000 species of orchids and over 100,000 hybrids growing throughout the world, these exotic flowers have been a part of many cultures. Nonetheless, only two distinctive types of orchids actually exist - terrestrial and epiphytes. Terrestrial orchids grow on the ground, forming either new growth along the stem or new shoots around the base of the plant. Epiphyte orchids, which are less common than terrestrial varieties, grow in a similar fashion, but in trees or on rocks. Caring for orchids is a time-honored tradition that dates back many centuries. The method of cultivating and caring for orchids depends on which variety is being grown. Epiphyte orchids should be planted in soil-less mediums such as volcanic stone or fir bark. Terrestrial orchids require soil, but care should be taken not to overwater them.
Coveted as a highly ornamental plant, the delicate orchid is exotic in its beauty. The orchid symbolizes luxury, love, strength and beauty. It represents refinement and perfection. In one type of fortune telling that uses mah jongg cards, the Orchid Guardian protects young girls from harm.
In traditional Japanese society, the white orchid symbolizes cleanliness and purity. In China, orchids signify the purity and innocence of a child. Orchids were used to promote good health and cure diseases by the ancient Chinese. In Mexico, a variety of vanilla orchid grew wild during the time of the Aztecs. They recognized its simplistic beauty and saw it as a symbol of true strength. It is believed by some historians that the ancient Aztecs brewed a strength potion from its flowers, which they drank to obtain power over their enemies.
Long ago, orchids were included as the primary ingredient in love potions concocted in Europe. Even today, the orchid continues to be associated with love through its designation as the flower symbolizing love and affection for the fourteenth wedding anniversary. During the Victorian Age, Europeans placed great value in orchids as symbols representative of elegance and luxury.
Associating orchids with strength, virility, and fertility, the Greeks placed their belief in the power of this exotic flowers to produce a male child from a woman's womb if the father ate the largest roots and stems from new orchid growth, and a female child from a woman's womb if the mother consumed the smallest stems and roots from new orchid growth. Even today, orchids are increasingly making an appearance as part of the menu, although strictly for nutritious value. None of the varieties are poisonous, and they are considered a source (albeit a small one) of vitamin C.
The delicate symmetry of this flower, including both the leaves as well as the stems, has created the orchid's representation as a symbol of sheer perfection and beauty. Christians have long held to the belief that the tiny spots found on orchids are representative of the blood of their Savior, Jesus Christ. Orchids are popular in both Christmas and Easter arrangements held at Christian services.
In recent years, the orchid is included in skin care formulas as a way to infuse protective and restorative properties into the product. Shown to revitalize while moisturizing, orchid extract and complexes made from orchids are used to offer protective capabilities that fight free radicals, along with the ability to boost skin immunity. Whether the orchid is featured in a single line or the basis of the inspiration for a new range of skincare products, it is included as a way to impart fresh health into the skin. Having been characterized with an ability to absorb and retain moisture, the orchid is currently used in several skincare lines in order to prevent and diminish the appearance of fine lines. Certain varieties of the orchid are rich in minerals. Therefore, they are credited with the ability to naturally enhance the appearance of the skin. As a result, anti-aging and brightening skin care formulas sometimes include orchid extract as one of their ingredients.
Today, orchid extracts are found in multiple varieties of hair products including shampoos, conditioner, and serums. It is thought to assist in repairing damaged hair, preventing additional moisture loss, restoring manageability, and promoting health and volume. Some hair formulas include orchid extract for its soothing capabilities.