Orchids

With an estimated 26,000 species, orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants in the world. They have evolved into an incredibly diverse range of plants, adapted to fill highly specific niches. Many orchids grow complex flowering parts that attract specific pollinators - the bee orchids for example (Ophrys species) produce flowers that mimic the shape, colour and scent of a female bee. When a male bee lands on the flower and attempts to mate, pollen sacs are deposited onto the bee's back. When that same bee lands on another Ophrys flower, the pollen becomes transfered. It is not just bees and pollinators that love orchids, people do too - orchid hunting was serious and profitable endeavour during the 19th Century. Charles Darwin himself was fascinated with orchids and he used orchid reproduction as a demonstration of natural selection and coevolution. Today, orchids remain a popular plant for growers, with over 100,000 recognised hybrids cultivated by orchid breeders.

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