What is an orchid?
Orchids are widely considered to be the most highly evolved of all flowering plants. Since I am doing the writing here, I will continue to consider them as such. What makes something an orchid? There are two answers. The first, and most simple, is that an orchid is whatever the professional taxonomists tell you is an orchid. This is sufficient for most people. Technically, an orchid is a flowering plant that exhibits a unique reproductive strategy. All orchids have both the male and female reproductive structures fused into a single structure commonly called a “column”. They also share some other floral characteristics, including (usually) a highly modified petal called a lip, or labellum. Think of it as a landing pad for bugs. These things are easy to see in most of the common orchids, although some orchid flowers are so small (or strange) that it can be difficult to tell. In that case it is best to go with the first definition. I’m sure that professional taxonomists have a more detailed definition of what makes an orchid an orchid, but since I’m not a taxonomist that will have to do. It is important to note, however, that even though the reproductive parts are contained in the same structure, orchids have evolved a highly efficient system of insuring that self pollination never takes place.