Of the world's 30,000 plus species of orchids, approximately 90% are native to tropical or subtropical regions around the globe. The largest of plant families, Orchidaceae has developed complex strategies for survival and remarkable adaptations to a wide range of habitats. Orchids occur naturally on six continents; some even grow north of the Arctic Circle.
Approximately 10% of orchid species grow in temperate latitudes. Like most familiar plants, they are terrestrial and have an annual cycle of growth followed by winter dormancy. North America boasts over 200 species plus several forms, varieties and natural hybrids which occur from south Florida to the far reaches of Alaska, from Canada's Maritime Provinces to southern California and everywhere in between. These are the focus of the Native Orchid Conference.
Never abundant and often threatened by habitat loss, our native orchids have adapted to unique habitats. Combinations of topography, geology, hydrology, geography and climate combine to create specific micro-climates that sustain certain species. More accurately, the adaptations of life forms to environmental conditions determine which species will evolve in a certain location. Orchids have highly complex reproductive strategies (often dependent on a specific pollinator), and interesting systems for nutrition (involving a symbiotic relationship with fungi) that assure the species' survival. That helps to explain why most cannot be grown "in captivity".
The Native Orchid Conference strives to identify and preserve orchid habitat so future generations may continue to enjoy these extraordinary wonders of nature.