Anyway...the wonderful vanilla scent so may of us love actually comes from an orchid indigenous to areas 20 degrees either side of the equator. First found in Mexico, today it is grown primarily in Madagascar, with Indonesia, China, and Mexico coming in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. The name itself means, "little pod" in Spanish as it is the pod and not the flower that produces scent and is harvested.
As with most of history, vanilla was native to the Totonaco Indians of Mexico until their defeat by the Spanish Conquistadors, namely Hernando Cortez and his band of merry men, who brought it back to Spain where the nobility kept the delicious flavor to themselves for another 80 years of so. Eventually an apothecary to Queen Elizabeth the 1st convinced HRH vanilla should be used as a flavoring in its own right. (So the rest of us peons could enjoy it as well).
If you want to get technical, Vanilla Planifolia it the proper term for this luscious scent. it is a climbing perennial that grows up to 75 feet clinging to trees for support. The first flowers and fruit usually don't appear for three years. Looking just like your garden variety green beans, the vanilla orchid produces pods that can grow up to 12 inches long.
It isn't the actual fruit, but the curing process that produces flavor. This changes the glucovanillin in vanilla pods into vanillin that produces its distinctive flavor. Further processing, usually using alcohol, give us the vanilla extract used in cooking. Vanilla can also be found as a powder, paste, or in ground beans.
I choose not to get into the curing process because, quite frankly, just reading about it made my eyes cross. If you cant to learn more, Wikipedia is a great resource.