Friday, December 12, 2008

Science break

For those of you who don't already know, I grow orchids, mainly species (as opposed to hybrids). Some of the species have such fascinating natural histories...

This individual plant just bloomed for me for the first time. It's Angraecum sesquipedale, a species native to Madagascar. When Charles Darwin examined specimens of these plants that had been imported to England, he saw that the nectary spur of the flower is 12 to 14 inches long and he predicted that there had to be a pollinator (probably a moth, since they are known to be attracted to night-fragrant light-colored flowers like this one) with a proboscis just as long. Most people scoffed.

Darwin died without knowing if he was correct. Some fifty years later, just such a moth was discovered to be pollinating this orchid, with its 12- to 14-inch proboscis. 

It was named Xanthopan morganii praedicta.

How cool is that?


Anonymous said...

Wow Jala- who knew ? That could have been one of the 7 things in getting tagged!
You grow them there and I can't get any orchids to grow. How bizarre.

Is this the same orchid referenced in The Orchid Thief? I recall reading about the deduction of a moth's existence as the only way to pollinate this plant.

So very interesting- and so rewarding when they flower.

Jala Pfaff said...

You can't grow orchids on a tropical island?! Say what?!

I have a little orchid greenhouse, otherwise they never thrive here. Colorado is way too dry for them.

I guess I should be careful not to give away too much more info about myself, in case I get tagged again. :)