Orchids fascinate. Parts of the orchid flower have shapes unlike any other flowering plant, and the sheer number of species means that their variety is seemingly endless, with an ability to interbreed and create ever more fantastical forms.
Extraordinary Orchids reveals some of the bizarre life-styles and interactions that botanists have uncovered amongst different categories of orchids: the epiphytic orchids, the ground-dwelling ones, the insect-mimicking ones and those whose lifestyles are so closely bound to their interactions with insects and birds.
Many common orchid names refer to the shape-shifting forms of the orchid flower – the ‘man-orchids’ or ‘monkey orchids’ are so called because of their resemblance to the primate form. Orchids lend themselves to depiction, and botanical artworks of them abound. Who could resist painting or drawing such intriguing shapes?
Sandra Knapp examines each category of orchid in turn and all are illustrated with stunning artwork from artists such as Ferdinand and Franz Bauer, Arthur Harry Church, Sydney Parkinson, Henry Fletcher Hance, John Russell Reeves, and images taken from James Bateman’s The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala.