The distribution ranges of various orchid species that one finds published in the literature often show bizarre characteristics. Interpreting distribution maps requires one to take into consideration the intensity of botanical collection within the general area of distribution and in many cases there is still insufficient data available to draw a definitive conclusion. On a micro-distribution level, when visiting a locality where a particular species occurs, it is difficult to understand why one plant is found growing at one particular spot, whereas another apparently equivalent spot nearby is vacant.
Some years ago I attempted to list all the environmental factors that one would need to quantify in order to define a narrow range of natural growth requirements applicable to a particular species; eg. light, temperature, moisture, etc. Such a list, however, becomes rather long and cumbersome. More importantly, such a rigid view of environmental requirements fails to take into consideration the natural genetic variability inherent within a species.
I have subsequently shifted my point of view to one which I hope is more realistic. I now see every spot or place within the environment as different to the next in some regard or to some degree. This is a reversal of my original position, one where I looked for commonality. Seeds arriving within an environment, vary genetically and have differing potential tolerances to various environmental factors.
When one encounters a plant growing in a particular spot, this only came about because the correct seed fell at the correct time on the correct spot - what I call the 'Sacred Relationship'. If a different seed had fallen on that particular spot at that particular time, it probably would not have grown to adulthood. If the seed which had given rise to our original plant had fallen somewhere else, even a few inches away from where it fell, it may not have been able to mature. As I see it, the chances of the 'sacred relationship' ever being established are statistically minimal, particularly with orchids. When we see an orchid growing in nature, it is the closest thing to a miracle that most of us are ever likely to encounter. Here is something so wonderful and special that nobody has the right to disturb or disrupt it. Anyone whose religious experience includes reverence to Mother Earth could only see that collecting any plant out of a safe natural environment amounts to sacrilege. Threatened environments obviously present a wholly different scenario and will be the subject of later discussions.

© 2003-2009 Greig Russell