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PNG images: Orchid

The Orchidaceae are a diverse and widespread family of flowering plants, with blooms that are often colourful and fragrant, commonly known as the orchid family.

Along with the Asteraceae, they are one of the two largest families of flowering plants. The Orchidaceae have about 28,000 currently accepted species, distributed in about 763 genera. The determination of which family is larger is still under debate, because verified data on the members of such enormous families are continually in flux. Regardless, the number of orchid species nearly equals the number of bony fishes and is more than twice the number of bird species, and about four times the number of mammal species. The family also encompasses about 6–11% of all seed plants. The largest genera are Bulbophyllum (2,000 species), Epidendrum (1,500 species), Dendrobium(1,400 species) and Pleurothallis (1,000 species).

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Epiphytic orchids, those that grow upon a support, have modified aerial roots that can sometimes be a few meters long. In the older parts of the roots, a modified spongy epidermis, called velamen, has the function to absorb humidity. It is made of dead cells and can have a silvery-grey, white or brown appearance. In some orchids, the velamen includes spongy and fibrous bodies near the passage cells, called tilosomes.

The cells of the root epidermis grow at a right angle to the axis of the root to allow them to get a firm grasp on their support. Nutrients for epiphytic orchids mainly come from mineral dust, organic detritus, animal droppings and other substances collecting among on their supporting surfaces.

 

The base of the stem of sympodial epiphytes, or in some species essentially the entire stem, may be thickened to form a pseudobulb that contains nutrients and water for drier periods.

The pseudobulb has a smooth surface with lengthwise grooves, and can have different shapes, often conical or oblong. Its size is very variable; in some small species of Bulbophyllum, it is no longer than two millimeters, while in the largest orchid in the world, Grammatophyllum speciosum (giant orchid), it can reach three meters. Some Dendrobium species have long, canelike pseudobulbs with short, rounded leaves over the whole length; some other orchids have hidden or extremely small pseudobulbs, completely included inside the leaves.

With ageing, the pseudobulb sheds its leaves and becomes dormant. At this stage, it is often called a backbulb. Backbulbs still hold nutrition for the plant, but then a pseudobulb usually takes over, exploiting the last reserves accumulated in the backbulb, which eventually dies off, too. A pseudobulb typically lives for about five years. Orchids without noticeable pseudobulbs are also said to have growths, an individual component of a sympodial plant.