Etymological Meaning of the Orchid Flower
Orchids (Orchidaceae family) earned their name from the Greek word orchis, meaning testicle. Their fleshy underground tubers were thought to resemble testicles, at least that’s what Greek botanist Theophrastos thought at the time.
The phalaenopsis orchids, commonly referred to as moth orchids, earned their name from mistaken identity. When Swedish Naturalist Peter Osbeck spied them in his field glasses while visiting Java in the mid-1750s, he thought they were a cluster of moths. Although they were not officially named for another 75 years, the common name Osbeck spied them in his field glasses while visiting Java in the mid-1750s, he thought they were a cluster of moths. Although they were not officially named for another 75 years, the common name moth orchid has endured.
Symbolism of the Orchid Flower
The ancient Greeks thought orchids were a symbol of virility. In fact, they were so convinced of the connection between orchids and fertility that they believe orchids with large tuberous roots symbolized a male child, while orchids with small tubers symbolized a female child.
The Aztecs reportedly mixed the vanilla orchid with chocolate to create a tasty elixir that was thought to promote power and strength. Although the Victorians didn’t use orchids as magical elixirs, they did collect and display them as a sign of luxury and a means to exhibit their refined taste.
The Orchid Flower Facts
Orchid plants and flowers range in size and shape. Many grow in the understory of tropical forests, producing delicate blooms in a wide array of colors. While some are tiny plants, only a few inches tall, others like the Vanilla orchid grow on towering vines. The Vanilla orchid is native to Mesoamerica where the Totonaco Indians cultivated it. According to ancient Totonaco legend, the vanilla orchid sprung from the blood of Princess Xanat when she and her lover were beheaded for disobeying her father’s wishes.
Although the Chinese have cultivated orchids for over 3,000 years, it was not until the 1600s that visitors to the Far East brought orchids to Europe. By 1802 orchids were raised from seed and by 1856, the first cultivated hybrid was developed.