Where in the World do Orchids Grow?
The answer is almost everywhere in the world. While the majority of orchids are found growing in the tropical regions of the world, they also grow in the temperate regions, both north and south of the equator, like the United States, Europe, China, Russia and Australia. Orchids are also found in rather cold areas, including within the Arctic Circle, like in the state of Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and northern Russia. There are only a small number of countries that do not have any indigenous orchids.
Visualize Their Distribution
To help you visualize where orchids can be found a webmap titled: Orchids of the World was developed. On the map you can click on a marker that will list the number of wild orchid species that can be found in that country, region, state or island. When available it will also include the number of endemic orchid species found there. In some of the larger countries, such as Canada, United States, Mexico, India, China, Russia and Australia there are green markers for the whole country and blue markers for states or regional areas within those countries.
In the early part of 2020 Michael Hassler and Joachim Rheinheimer updated their List of Taxa in The Illustrated World Compendium of Orchids. The total number of species that they list in the database is 29,806. Their update prompted an update to the Orchids of the World Web map. In the notes for the update they point out some interesting facts, such as the small country of Ecuador is the most species rich country with almost 4,000, however they feel that Columbia may harbour more than Ecuador. Also the island of Madagascar has nearly as many species as all of tropical Africa and that the country of Costa Rica has the highest species density per area, followed by Panama and Ecuador.
The data used came from three sources. 1. For the United States and Canada - The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plants Database, accessed in December 2018. 2. For the Country of India - The article "Status of Orchid Conservation in India, Part 1" by Dr Sadananda Hegde published in the December 2016 issue of The Orchid Society of Karnataka (TOSKAR) Newsletter. 3. For all other Countries and Islands - The Illustrated World Compendium of Orchids ‑ List of Taxa compiled by Michael Hassler and Joachim Rheinheimer updated in February 2020.
It should be noted that the species counts are only the "best estimates" because new species are being discovered each year and orchid habitat is constantly being threatened by human activity and changes in weather patterns.
Viewing the Map
To view the Orchids of the World webmap you will be taken to the ESRI ArcGIS online website. I believe that you will find this online webmap to be very informative and no doubt surprising as you find out -- Where in the world do orchids grow? (M.H., December 2020)