Orchid Science

The ecology of orchids is complex and all of the information needed to develop protocols for propagation, conservation and restoration is not known for any species native to North America. Progress has, however, been made on understanding the ecology of a few species. Two NAOCC partners have been leading this effort. Dr. Larry Zettler and his students in the Orchid Recovery Program at Illinois College and staff at the Atlanta Botanical Garden are actively involved in orchid restoration.

Specialized habitats, pollinators, and even fungi play an important role in an orchid’s life cycle. This is why orchids can be a key indicator of the overall health of the environment—and why they are so vulnerable when this cycle is disrupted. Elements of the orchid’s life cycle are shown below.

Orchid Life Cycle and Fungal Relationships

  • Orchid Life Cycle

    Orchid Life Cycle

    Orchid lifecycle and fungal relationships.

  • Seeds

    orchid seeds

    Orchid seeds are so small that they are referred to as “dust-seeds.” These tiny seeds contain little nutrition to support germination and growth. This is why orchids form mycorrhizas, symbiotic relationships with fungi, early in their lives.