The small, pure yellow Gower Ramsey dancing lady orchid (Oncidium Gower Ramsey), with long, arching flowering stems comes into flower in midwinter in the Chicago area. Dancing lady orchids adapt to home cultivation if they receive bright light, humidity, and very well-drained soils.
Gower Ramsey dancing lady orchid has been frequently studied by plant physiologists investigating the role of genes in flower development.
The orchid family consists of a large number of genera, each with its own unique characteristics. A common characteristic, however, is the basic form of the flower, which consists of three petals surrounded by three sepals—often in dramatic and contrasting colors and in a variety of shapes and sizes. Although some orchids are native to temperate zones, most orchids tend to prefer a semitropical or tropical environment (USDA Zones 9-11) and have epiphytic roots—meaning they derive moisture and nutrients from the air and support from another plant; few orchids grow in soil. Orchids usually prefer a diurnal temperature fluctuation—meaning warmer days and cooler nights—though the absolute temperature range (cool, intermediate, or warm) varies by genus and is consistent with their natural habitat. While requiring adequate sunlight for a stunning bloom display, most orchids will not tolerate sustained direct sun.
Many varieties have pseudobulbs, a portion of the stem between leaf nodes that stores water to help sustain the plant through dry periods. Other varieties are monopodial, meaning upward growth is from a single growing point.
There is an exception to almost every general statement one can make about orchids. The family continues to challenge taxonomists.