Etymology: The origin of the word Orchid.
The name comes from the Ancient Greek ὄρχις (órkhis), literally meaning “testicle“, because of the shape of the root. Carl Linnaeus classified the family as Orchidaceae.
Orchid was introduced in 1845 by John Lindley in School Botany, due to an incorrect attempt to extract the Latin stem (orchis) from Orchidaceae.
The Greek myth of Orchis explains the origin of the plants. Orchis, the son of a nymph and a satyr, came upon a festival of Dionysus (Bacchus) in the forest. He drank too much, and attempted to rape a priestess of Dionysus. For his insult, he was torn apart by the Bacchanalians. His father prayed for him to be restored, but the gods instead changed him into a flower.
These flowers were previously called Orchis, Satyrion (Satyrion feminina), or “ballockwort”.
Orchidaceae are cosmopolitan, occurring in almost every habitat apart from glaciers.
The world’s richest concentration of orchid varieties is found in the tropics, mostly Asia, South America and Central America, but they are also found above the Arctic Circle, in southern Patagonia, and two species of Nematoceras on Macquarie Island at 54° south.