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Orchids are among the rarest, most beautiful and fascinating plants in the world. No other plant family stimulates such enthusiastic interest from flower lovers and amateur botanists as orchids. They are, as is generally known, the most researched family of the plant kingdom. As the orchid family is the youngest of all plant families and its evolution has still not come to a close, its members have a high degree of variability and often create hybrids with one another. Many species therefore give rise to subspecies, varieties and forms. In addition, many orchids are rare or even threatened with extinction; another reason why more and more people study and marvel at orchids.
Globally, about 20,000 to 35,000 species have been named. With the exception of Antarctica, they occur worldwide (from Greenland to Australia) and they grow in the most varied of biotopes (sometimes in trees - epiphytes - or on the ground - terrestrial species - from wet pastures to steppe-like grasslands). Most species occur in the tropics. In Europe there are around 600 species and subspecies, as well as numerous varieties, most of them in the Mediterranean region.
Especially over the last twenty years orchids have been receiving increasing attention. Consequently, more and more articles and books, and an abundance of new orchid names have been published. So many new taxa (species, subspecies, varieties and forms) have been described that even most orchid specialists have totally or partially lost track of them. This is mainly caused by the fact that these names are published in a variety of different periodicals and books, which many orchidologists do not have at their disposal. Many of these new taxa have been described correctly, but others are of a questionable species or subspecies rank. Some of these species will therefore probably completely disappear in the course of time. Most newly described taxa will certainly remain however, and other new species and subspecies will be described. This publication offers an overview of all European orchid taxa (species, subspecies and the most important varieties and forms) with their synonyms. It also includes a new taxonomical classification of the orchids of Europe and its fringe areas. This book, in English and German, includes all species, subspecies and most important varieties and forms of European orchids.