The orchid's name originates from the Greek orchis, meaning "testicle," and its history is one of lust, greed, and wealth. Some orchids are called "ladies' fingers," "ladies' tresses," or "long purples." Orchids were collected extensively during the 1800s; once, four thousand trees were cut down for the orchids growing on their branches. One collector alone was believed to have sent hundreds of thousands of orchids to England, where most of them died.
There are nearly 25,000 varieties of orchids. Greek women thought they could control the sex of their unborn children with orchid roots. If the father ate large, new tubers, the child would be male; if the mother ate small tubers, the child would be female. Indeed, the orchid's reproductive behaviour has intrigued botanists for years: to germinate, an orchid's seeds need to be penetrated by fungus threads. The paphiopedilum orchid was named for Phaphos, a temple on Cyprus where the love goddess Aphrodite was worshipped (and where prostitutes were said to be readily available.) The most famous orchid, the vanilla orchid, was said to give strength to the Aztecs, who drank vanilla mixed with chocolate.
The orchid is a flower of magnificence that brings a universal message of love, beauty, wisdom, and thoughtfulness. In China it signifies refinement, and the innocence of children. A pink orchid conveys pure affection; the popular cattalya orchid denotes mature charm, and is often used in corsages for Mother's Day.