Extraordinary Orchids

Univ. of Chicago. Mar. 2021. 160p. ISBN 9780226779676. $30. GARDENING
Knapp (Flora: The Art of Plant Exploration) turns her attention to the Orchidaceae, the second largest family of plants. In this captivating overview, she covers the biology of both terrestrial and epiphytic (tree-dwelling) orchids and explains how epiphytes are adapted to living in trees, even using a special form of photosynthesis. She talks about the relationship between orchids and animals (particularly insects, which live in orchids or pollinate them) and how pollinators co-evolved with orchids. Some orchids even use sexual deception, or flowers resembling insects, to trick insects into pollinating them. Knapp describes flower structure and seed germination in orchids, which often need mycorrhizal fungi for their seeds to sprout. She also touches on the decline of orchid populations due to overharvesting for collectors or for use in medicine. The heart of the work is its collection of stunning full-color drawings, many from the archives of the Natural History Museum in London, including illustrations depicting beautiful flowering orchid plants and scientific illustrations showing the anatomy of the plants; descriptive captions expand on the text.
VERDICT Orchid fanciers will relish the gorgeous color plates; readers new to orchids will appreciate the information on orchid biology, culture, and history.
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