How Orchids Work

Orchids in Pop Culture

The sheer beauty, evolutionary capabilities and number of orchid species worldwide are fascinating enough to captivate both serious and amateur horticulturists, but the sexually charged reputation and exotic appearance of the blooms are why many others find them attractive.

Perhaps due to its wily, teasing pollination tricks (or the fact that the word "orchid" comes from the Greek word for "testicle") these beauties are often associated with sex, lending films, perfumes and other products bearing the name a certain air of mystery and sensuality [source: Encyclopaedia Britannica]. Case in point — the 1989 romantic/erotic drama "Wild Orchid," starring Mickey Rourke and Jacqueline Bisset. In fact, ancient Greeks regarded some types of orchids as aphrodisiacs [source: Oregon Orchid Society]. Seems like a great alternative for those of us who don't enjoy oysters!

Fascination with these beautiful flowers goes back at least as far as the Victorian era, during which aptly named "orchid hunters" ravaged South American habitats to bring them back to England for cultivation on the homefront [source: Oregon Orchid Society]. Even today, A-listers continue to covet orchids, as they are regularly found adorning the lapels of stars at movie premieres and as décor at fancy events.

Orchids have more than just beauty and brains on their side, however. Certain types have been used over the centuries for holistic medicine purposes, with the Chinese opting to serve them up in tea form to combat cancer and boost immunities. Others swear that orchids are helpful for treating gum disease and indigestion, and that they have antibacterial capabilities. Medical research has yet to validate these claims one way or the other [source: Just Add Ice]. Even if these claims are never proven, the smarts, sass and sex appeal of the orchid family is undeniable.

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