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The orchids are the only monocot plants in the northern latitudes with distinctive, irregular blossoms. It is worth a trip to the floral store to see the unique flowers, but far more exciting to find them in the wild. The flowers are bisexual, with 3 sepals and 3 petals. The sepals can be green or colored like the petals. The lower petal is often modified into a sort of "sack" or "spur". There are 1 or 2 stamens combined with the pistil into a column. The ovary is positioned inferior and consists of 3 united carpels (syncarpous/tricarpellate) with the partition walls present, forming an equal number of chambers. It matures as a 3-valved capsule with numerous seeds. The inferior ovary is one of the more distinctive patterns for identifying members of this family. It elongates into a seed capsule while the flowers are still present. The seeds are almost microscopic, consisting of a minute embryo enclosed in a few cells. Orchids associate with fungi, and must find the proper host to successfully germinate.
Key Words: Irregular monocot flowers with a distinctive inferior ovary.
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