Fascinating Facts About Orchids: Background information when reading The Seed Collectors

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Seed Collectors

by Scarlett Thomas

The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas X
The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2016, 396 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2017, 396 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright
Buy This Book

About this Book

Fascinating Facts About Orchids

This article relates to The Seed Collectors

Print Review

Each of the main characters in The Seed Collectors inherits a seed pod from a rare orchid, and these play a key role in the story.

People have been fascinated with orchids since the time of the Victorians, devoting much energy and resources to raising the myriad variety of these admired beauties. Between 1838 and 1910, orchid hunters traveled the world in search of exotic varieties bringing back shipments sometimes worth up to $80,000. Orchids have been around much longer than people — they've lived on earth for at least ten to fifteen million years. (Although some research indicates that orchids could be as old as one hundred and twenty million years, placing them on earth before the continents split!)

Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants. There are more than 30,000 species occuring naturally and hundreds of thousands of hybrids added by humans. The tallest orchid species is nearly forty-four feet high. Orchid clusters can weigh as much as a ton while the smallest has a flower just over two millimeters wide with transparent petals. Orchid blooms can last only a few hours or more than half a year, depending on the species. Some species live as long as one hundred years.

The Bee Orchid The genus name Orchis comes from the ancient Greek word for "testicle" because of the bulbous shape of the roots. Orchids come in all colors including sky blue, purest white and near black. Many orchid species have the uncanny ability to take on the qualities of the pollinating insects and birds they need to attract for pollination. For instance, the bee orchid has an appealing smell and looks like a big grinning bumble bee for the purpose of attracting male bees. The male bee lands on the flower to check out a possible mate, is covered in pollen and leaves to go on to the next bee orchid in hopes of better prospects, pollinating that flower in the process. There are orchid species that have a monkey face, an owl face, look like a dove, a delicate moth, and a flying duck.

Orchids grow wild on every continent except Antartica. Climate affects the size, shape and texture of orchid leaves; in dry climates leaves are thick and waxy whereas in warm humid climates they usually have long thin leaves or no leaves at all.

Some orchid species are unable to produce food using the usual plant method of sunlight and carbon dioxide and so depend on fungi in their roots to do this for them. Orchids produce seed pods containing millions of tiny seeds, each about the size of a speck of dust. Only a few of these minute seeds will make it to a mature plant. Orchid seeds do not have endosperm, a tissue that other plants rely on to deliver nutrients necessary for germination and therefore depend on fungi for this, too. Germination takes a couple of weeks to fifteen years.

Orchids are grown for many purposes beyond the ascetic pleasure of their beauty. They are used in perfume, spices and traditional Asian medicine. Vanilla usually comes from an orchid, pods from the species Vanilla planifolia. So the next time you use vanilla in your baking, you can thank an orchid.

Picture of bee orchid by Hans Hillewaert

Article by Sharry Wright

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Seed Collectors. It originally ran in June 2016 and has been updated for the April 2017 paperback edition.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Flight Portfolio
    The Flight Portfolio
    by Julie Orringer
    At once a sweeping historical narrative, an insightful character study and a tender romance, Julie ...
  • Book Jacket: How to Make Friends with the Dark
    How to Make Friends with the Dark
    by Kathleen Glasgow
    Don't go to bed angry; make up after fights; always say I love you – you don't know when ...
  • Book Jacket
    Red Birds
    by Mohammed Hanif
    Mohmmed Hanif's Red Birds is part Catch-22, part Slaughterhouse-Five, part Kafka's The Castle, and ...
  • Book Jacket: Endeavour
    Endeavour
    by Peter Moore
    Miriam-Webster defines a biography as "a usually written history of a person's life." One might ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Last Collection
    by Jeanne Mackin

    A vivid novel about the intense rivalry between iconic fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Volunteer
    by Jack Fairweather

    The true story of one man, an underground army, and the secret mission to destroy Auschwitz from within.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Guest Book

The Guest Book
by Sarah Blake

"An American epic in the truest sense."
—Entertainment Weekly

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

M I Haste, R A L

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.