Orchids Roots

Orchids Roots
by John Bernard

Many orchids produce pseudobulbs or false bulbs, although this is not always the case. Those that do, develop a svmpodial type of growth, where a new pseudobulb is added each season along a continually extending rhizome. In this way, the plant builds up a series of pseudobulbs that form a chain.

Cattleyas produce just one or two broad, semi-rigid leaves from the apex of the pseudobulbs. Leaves vary considerably in colour from a light mid-green to dark grey-green. Some paphiopedilums and phalaenopsis are mottled with light and dark green shades. Not all sympodial orchids produce pseudobulbs. The paphiopedilums and phragmipediums, for example, form fans of leaves from a basal rhizome. Monopodial orchids have a single vertical rhizome from which pairs of leaves grow at right angles. Vandas and phalaenopsis are the best examples of monopodial orchids in cultivation.

While the vandas can become considerably tall, and at some stage in their life need to be reduced in height, the phalaenopsis are selfregulating, never attaining much upward growth, because the older leaves are shed at the same rate as new ones appear. The leaves of vandas and other monopodial orchids are semi-rigid, while those of phalaenopsis are broad and flat. In the wild, the latter plants are not subjected to extreme temperatures or bright sunlight, and their wide surface is designed to catch as much of the filtered light as possible.

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Most orchid roots will remain in the container but, being naturally aerial, will often extend over the rim of the pot and continue to grow, suspended in air, or by attaching themselves to any surface they touch. The roots are not permanent structures but are made annually, sprouting from the base some time after the start of the new growth.

The leaves contain chlorophyll, which enables the plant to photosynthesize sunlight into energy. Some of the terrestrial orchids exist for long periods without leaves, producing foliage for only a short time during the growing season. A few orchids, such as Rhizanthella species, are subterranean, without any green parts, relying entirely on the microscopic fungus with which they form a symbiotic relationship. The nutrients that the orchid requires are provided by the fungus.

Aim lac rhizome and seldom have nett law underground. Many orchids :Ticaosynthesize through the roots, n Mme examples there are a tii small epiphytic species that wine :become totally leafless, relying apon a bundle of thick roots to eritibe necessary chlorophyll. The soots of some orchids are also ammarb.ranractive; in phalaenopsis they ameniram white when outside the pot.

The purpose of this is not fully understood, but it may be that they are a protection from insects or a means of preventing water lying on the foliage, which could be detrimental on cold nights. Other monopodials, including vandas, have leaf tips that are serrated; these enable the plant to dispose of any excess moisture taken up through the roots.

The glow of light at the end of this hollow pseudobulb indicates the small hole at the bottom of the structure. In the wild, these orchids are infested with huge colonies of ants which live inside the hollow pseudobulb. The ant has a comfortable home, and the plant remains untroubled by parasites.

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