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BARBARA KLEIN: Visitors are currently learning about orchids at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. America's plant museum and the Horticultural Services Division of the Smithsonian Institution are presenting the show "Orchids: A Cultural Odyssey." Among the many visitors, Tonya Johnson came to the exhibit with young children from the Shabach Christian Academy in Landover, Maryland. She helped the children make discoveries about orchids. STEVE EMBER: Live orchids form a rainbow of colors in the Botanic Garden's conservatory building. Orchid plants are blooming out of pots, climbing on trees or overflowing from baskets among the garden's permanent collection. The world has an estimated twenty-five thousand kinds of orchids. A big blue globe near the opening of the exhibit shows places where orchids grow. The number of species in an area is written near its name. For example, Costa Rica has one thousand five hundred species. The United States has seventy. The far northern nation of Greenland has four. BARBARA KLEIN: Signs and overhanging banners help tell the stories of the plants on exhibit. Some of the orchids look like insects - butterflies, bees or spiders. Others look like stars, cups or lighted fireworks. A colorful figure of a dragon with big teeth attracts attention to information about orchids in Sri Lanka. Orchids play an important part in special events in that country and on that country's money. One banner shows the flowers on Sri Lanka's one-hundred rupee note. Another banner shows delicate orchids on a five-dollar note from Singapore. STEVE EMBER: Many visitors to the exhibit say they recognize some common orchid plants. The Cattleya, for example, gets a lot of attention. The flower is sometimes called the corsage orchid. People wear the cut flower on clothing to celebrate special events like birthdays or Mother's Day. There are many species of Cattleya. Most come from the treetops in wet tropical forests in Central and South America. They need warm temperatures to grow well. BARBARA KLEIN: The Cattleya probably owes its existence to William Cattley, a British botanist. In eighteen eighteen, Cattley saved the orchid plant from being thrown away. At the time, the plant was used as packing material that protected other orchid plants arriving from Brazil. Cattley succeeded in getting the unknown plant to flower. Later another botanist named it the Cattleya in his honor. People often describe the deep color of the Cattleya lip as "showy." But this part of the flower provides more than beautiful appearance. It serves as a landing area for bees and other insects that spread pollen to the plant. The colors and design of the lip help attract the insects. STEVE EMBER: The nun's orchid has an interesting name and shape. Not surprisingly, the flower looks like the head covering worn by some female Catholic religious workers. The nun's orchid came first from China. It reached the United States in the eighteenth century. The flowers can be big, up to almost thirteen centimeters across. Some are brown with a lip that looks purple. Other possible color designs include yellows, reds and browns. The vanilla orchid also has an interesting form. The fruit is inside the seedpods of its thick leaves. The leaves grow on tree trunks. Extract of vanilla provides a spice used in foods. The tiny dark dots in vanilla ice cream are from the seedpods of the vanilla orchid. The orchid grows in the rain forests of Mexico. It also grows in Madagascar, South America, Central America and warm areas of Asia and Africa. Source: Voice of America