An Orchid’s Best Friend

An Orchid’s Best Friend

At the time they were unable to cultivate orchids from seed and had to rely on wild orchids and try to propagate new orchids from healthy mature orchids, a process that took decades.A scientific study of orchids revealed why they were so difficult to cultivate: they were missing an important aspect of the orchid habitat. Many orchid species rely on a complex symbiosis with fungi to propagate their seeds and to flourish in the wild. These fungi, broadly called orchids mycorrhiza, are specialized for each type of orchid and are often only found associated with their preferred orchid species. Considering the immense biodiversity of orchids, orchids mycorrhizae represent approximately 10% of all botanical biodiversity on Earth In 1902, Lewis Knudson, a botanist at Cornell University, introduced a method to cultivate orchids mimicking the environment created by the symbiotic fungus. With the ability to grow from seed, horticulturists have made 100,000s of unique hybrid orchids and this has also brought the price down significantly.

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