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Vol. 16(5), pp. 17-24The McAllen International Orchid Society JournalMay 2015

Thoughts on The Age and Size of the Orchid Family

R J Ferry

Several years ago, the elaborate tome of the Encyclopedia of Cultivated Orchids was published by Alex Hawkes (1964). In the first page of his introduction he states: "The number of different kinds of orchids which grow wild throughout the world has never been determined with any accuracy, and estimates today range from a low of 7,500 species to a high of more than 30,000. From the evidence at our disposal, it would seem that a figure of about 24,000 apparently valid species is a safe and reasonable estimate. In addition to this prodigious quantity of 'wild' orchids, there exist about 32,000 or so -- the number increases at the average rate of more than 1,000 per annum -- hybrid forms, these hybrids having been produced, for the most part, by man's action. Thus in the Orchidaceae, we have by far the largest assemblage of flowering plants known to science at the lowest estimate something in excess of 56,000 distinct kinds, as this book is written.”

Fig. 1. Pl#050575-1. Slc. Falcon 'Alexanderi' FCC/AOS. Digital scan from 35mm transparency, Photo: 05 May, 1975

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Copyright © 2015 R J Ferry