The Orchid Family

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Orchidaceae

The orchid holds a special place in my heart. When showing off, it has beautiful flowers which can last quite a long time but then it happens… The flowers begin to shrivel up one by one, fall off, and for some people, never show their beauty again. This is when they come to me. Some of the people around me know that I have open arms to any and all orchids. They call them, boring with plain green leaves. I don’t see them that way and love to nurse them back to health. They sit in my bathroom upstairs enjoying the filtered light and moisture from the shower until they are ready to make an appearance again. Once buds begin to form, they come back downstairs and sit in the prime flower spot in the foyer and kitchen where people can ooh and ahh over them. Every day in my bathroom I look at those boring green leaves and feel a great sense of love knowing what their future holds. The gift of new buds feels like Christmas. Growing orchids takes a lot of patience but I believe it is well worth it!

As I dig deeper into the orchid family, it seems that there is a lot of variance with statements like, they are primarily this but can also be like this. Read on to see a few examples. According to Botany Illustrated, Orchids are found worldwide and are known as the largest family with an estimated 30,000 species. [Even their] habitats vary enormously from dry sand to acidic bogs and wet meadows, from temperate forest and mangrove swamps to tropical cloud forests there is even an underground orchid, Thizanthella gardneri (Glimn-Lacy & Kaufman, 2006, pg.130). They also vary greatly in size. Most leaves are alternate and simple but some plants are leafless. They are primarily herbaceous (nonwoody) but they may also be like a vine or a shrub. You may find them getting nutrients by either being attached to another plant, epiphytic, or from the soil and dead organic matter, saprophytic. Orchids are considered perennials, which means they live for more than two years.

If you’ve ever tried to buy an orchid as a gift, you know that the flower colors and patterns vary greatly too, making it a difficult decision. Dodson (2019) from the Encyclopedia Britannica explains a little about the unique characteristics of an orchid – As a group, the orchids are different from other plants but only in the morphological (structural) characteristics associated with the flower and its organization. Even the special characteristics of orchid flowers, such as the masses of pollen called pollinia, the joining of the stamens and pistil to form a column, and the tiny seeds without endosperm are found individually in other groups of flowering plants. It is through the combination of several characteristics that a family of flowering plants, the Orchidaceae, emerges.  The flower is usually bisexual which means it has staminate and pistillate structures. It has three sepals that may resemble petals, a column of fused stamen and stigmas, and three carpels which make up the inferior ovary. The central petal which is the lip is usually large and unique sometimes even considered bizarre. The lip encloses the fused male and female parts creating a column. On the tip of this column is a sticky pollen sac. The other end of the column has a sticky flap called the rostellum. Insects take pollen from one flower to another flower. There it sticks to the rostellum and a capsule fruit is formed.

The orchid got its name from the Ancient Greeks. They called it órkhis, which when translated means testicle. It is believed that this name was given because of the shape of the root. Carl Linnaeus classified the family as Orchidaceae and the name orchid was used by John Lindley in the book School Botany in 1845. Interestingly, the orchid family is of great economic importance and provides a very important item, vanilla! There are also many folk medicines and cures associated with the orchid: Cure poisoning from a fish, prevent sickness after childbirth, to treat boils, as a diuretic, good for broken bones, food and food supplements, sold as a vegetable, seasoning, flour substitute, and can even be used as a glue.

To conclude, the orchid can be found everywhere, even in roadside ditches, and have many varying features which create a unique family, to say the least. Some species are considered a weed whereas others are considered endangered and protected. They can be used for vanilla, folk medicinal cures, or just for admiring their beauty. Once the flowers fall and you are left with only the leaves, it can take great patience to wait for the flowers to bloom again. I wonder if there is an organization out there for rescuing abandoned orchids? Maybe I should start one.


Aitchinson, P. (2013) Orchid: How did it get its name? Retrieved from https://sfvos.com/ 2013/09/12/orchid-how-did-it-get-its-name/
Dodson, C. (2019) Orchid. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/plant/orchid
Glimn-Lacy & Kaufman. (2006) Botany Illustrated: Introduction to Plants, Major Groups, Flowering Plant Families second edition. New York, NY: Springer Science+Buisness Media, Inc.

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Magnoliaceae

The Magnolia is one of my most favorite flowers and it reminds me of my move to Charleston, SC from New Hampshire. On our first visit, while my husband and I were exploring the city, I was in awe of the Magnolia trees. Their large branches and leaves made me curious but what caught my attention the most was the crisp white flowers. Many of the magnolia trees we encountered while exploring downtown had flowers that were out of my reach. This was frustrating since I was so desperate to smell them. Later that evening while dining out, and by out I mean that all the windows of the restaurant were open to the outside, we were lucky enough to have a table right next to nature! Not too long after we arrived a man with two hooks for hands stopped near our table, he was selling Magnolia flowers. I was curious about how a man with hooks for hands was able to pick the large number of flowers he was selling and also excited that I would finally be able to hold and smell one of those beautiful flowers up close and personal. My husband bought me one and I spent the rest of the evening smelling it and admiring its beauty. However, my enjoyment was short lived. I put the flower in water, went to bed, and sadly when I awoke, it was brown. From that day forward I decided to never pick a magnolia flower but to just leave it on the tree so it can live a little bit longer.

As stated in the book Botany Illustrated, the Magnolia family is large with over 200 flowering species. It can be found in eastern North America, Central America, tropical South America, Mexico, West Indies, southern and eastern India, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Malesia, China, Japan, and Korea. Having many primitive characteristics, it is considered to be among the most primitive of flowering plants. Some of these characteristics are the large flower with many petals and sepals and the many stamens that are spirally arranged around a raised axis which has many pistils. The axis resembles a cone-like structure. “Cone-like fossils similar to magnolia receptacles have been discovered in ancient sedimentary strata, indicating that this is a very primitive plant family” (Armstrong, 2001). Stipules that enclose the young bud leaf shed as the flower expands also the bracts that enclose the flower buds shed as the flower opens. The image of the stipules and the bracts shedding to me represents the power of the large beautiful flower opening up to life.

Magnolia is best known for the beautiful flowers that are produced and the sweet luxurious smell that is often used in expensive perfumes. What many people might not know, according to dōTERRA, a well known essential oil company, is that Magnolia has been used in traditional health practices in places like China and Thailand for many years. The essential oil is distilled from fresh petals and due to the difficulty of harvesting the fresh blossoms, Magnolia oil is precious and expensive. According to the book, The Essential Life (2018), Magnolia essence was used in ceremonies to enhance confidence and well-being. The blossoms were harvested at night when considered most fragrant. This book also states that the top properties of Magnolia are: Sedative, relaxant, antidepressant, aphrodisiac, decongestant, stomachic. It can be applied directly to the skin, although you will mostly find it mixed in with carrier oil due to its expensive price tag, or it can be used aromatically by inhalation.

One of the main constituents in Magnolia is Linalool. Linalool is known for its ability to promote calmness and relaxation while at the same time promoting comfort. According to Pubmed, Linalool is recognized as safe. It can be found in a variety of items from foods to carpet and surface treatments. Pubmed states that “Decreased activity, decreased pain sensation, and sedation have been reported in laboratory animals exposed to high levels of Linalool.” With Magnolia being expensive and mostly mixed with a carrier oil, exposure to high levels of Linalool is probably not going to occur during normal use. However, it is always advised to be cautious when using a new product for the first time.

For many, an aroma will bring a person straight back to a time or place in their memory as if it just happened yesterday. This is the case for me with the Magnolia flower. Before starting this paper I had no idea that the Magnolia tree was considered to be such a primitive plant. So primitive that the blossoms were pollinated by beetles rather than bees back in ancient times (The Essential Oil Life, 2018, p. 125). I feel fortunate to have this beautiful flower to admire right outside my door and the essential oil with its many benefits to enjoy aromatically and topically. Not knowing that Magnolia was used in ceremonial rituals long ago, I am happy to say that I have been carrying on this tradition. Each night before bed I apply Magnolia essential oil topically to my chest taking advantage of the calming properties while also enjoying the beautiful scent.


References
Armstrong, W.P. (2001) The Magnolia Family (Magnoliaceae): A Primitive Family of Flowering Plants. Retrieved from https://www2.palomar.edu/users/warmstrong/trmar98c.htm
Glimn-Lacy & Kaufman. (2006) Botany Illustrated: Introduction to Plants, Major Groups, Flowering Plant Families second edition. New York, NY: Springer
Science+Buisness Media, Inc. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Linalool, CID=6549, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Linalool (accessed on June 4, 2019)
Uses and Benefits of dōTERRA Magnolia Touch. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.doterra.com/US/en/blog/spotlight-magnolia-touch-oil

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