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Results tagged “orchidaceae”

Dec 19, 2014: Ophrys umbilicata subsp. flavomarginata

Ophrys umbilicata subsp. flavomarginata

BPotD work-learn student Cora den Hartigh wrote today's entry:

Thank you to Andreas Lambrianides (andreas lambrianides@Flickr) for this "happy" flower from the Akamas Peninsula, Pafos, Cyprus! These orchids are rare to find outside of the grasslands of Cyprus, but they can be found in similar habitats in Israel and Jordan.

Ophrys umbilicata subsp. flavomarginata is a delightful species of orchid that is easily anthropomorphized. Just look at those cute fuzzy (hirsute) arms (actually, lateral lobes)! Otherwise known as the yellow-lobed bee orchid, this species is closely related to several other Ophrys spp. that mimic insects, two of which have been previously featured on BPotD: see the gorgeous Ophyrs bombyliflora for a discussion of plant trickery, or the sly Ophrys tenthredinifera.

Co-evolution has exquisitely tailored orchids to appeal to specific pollinators, predicating a radiance of flourishing diversity and interdependence. There are orchids that smell like chocolate or mushrooms or powerful head-spinning perfumes. There are orchids that look like flying ducks (Caleana major) and monkey faces (Dracula simia, among others). There are rare species of blue orchids or sneaky parasitic orchids - they are in fact so diverse that it is possible to find orchids in nearly every biome! One of my favourite genera is Catasetum, whose species fire pollen so forcibly when the seta of plants are brushed that the pollinators are knocked back into the air!

Another orchid story: in 1798, Darwin received a curious specimen of Angraecum sesquipedale (Christmas star orchid) in the mail from a naturalist friend exploring in Madagascar which was possessed of a remarkably long nectar spur. What could possibly pollinate such a flower? Darwin postulated some insect might be uniquely adapted to this orchid by way of a similarly long proboscis. It was not until 1903, a century later, that a moth (Xanthopan morgani praedicta) was discovered fitting Darwin's description. The orchid and moth are celebrated examples of Darwin's evolutionary theories and the fine tailoring of biological relationships. You can check out a video of the moth in action. Notice that Angraecum sesquipedale is white; pollinated by a nocturnal insect, the plant presumably had no need to evolve colourful pigments for attracting pollinators, unlike today's subject.

Speaking of orchid diversity, I spent last summer working at a botanical garden that had no less than 3000 species of orchid at any given time. The collection had been gifted from a private donor in Vancouver and was housed in three misty greenhouses that were positively intoxicating! If you visit Edmonton, consider checking out the Muttart Conservatory. Alternatively, you can always take a moment to peruse the web site of the Orchid Species Preservation Foundation!

Jan 7, 2014: Ophrys bombyliflora

Ophrys bombyliflora

Taisha launches the new year with a series on plant mimicry and deception. She writes:

Plant mimicry is described by Barrett in Mimimcry in Plants (PDF, 1987) as a three part system consisting of:

  • a model -- the animal, plant, or substrate being imitated
  • a mimic -- the organism imitating the model
  • a dupe or signal receiver -- the organism that cannot distinguish between model and mimic

Barrett further explains that mimicry in plants is not an active strategy, but rather arises from evolution through the occurrence of random mutations and natural selection. Also, it's mentioned that in order for natural selection to favour the evolution of mimicry; the mimic must gain a reproductive advantage and thus increase fitness by modeling itself after an organism or substrate.

Starting this series is a member of a genus known for deceit, Ophyrus bombyliflora, or the bumblebee orchid. This photo was chosen from the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool and was taken in April by Jenny (aka Crete Flowers@Flickr). Jenny photographed this flower in the village of Prodromi, located in southwest Crete, Greece. Thank you, Jenny!

The Mediterranean orchid genus Ophrys is known for its specialized pollination system of sexual deception, which is an example of Pouyannian mimicry. In Ophrys, the labellum of the flower mimics female pollinator species to attract males. The male pollinators attempt to mate with the flower (aka pseudocopulation) and pollinaria are subsequently transferred to the pollinator. Upon an attempt at copulation with a second flower of the same species, cross-pollination occurs.

Ophrys bombyliflora specifically attracts male solitary bees of the genus Eucera by chemical, visual, and tactile means, and does not seemingly offer any other pollinator rewards (e.g, nectar). It is speculated that the labellum of bumblebee orchids attracts the male Eucera bees over long distances by emitting a chemical odour from a fragrance-producing organ called an osmophore. At shorter ranges, the cuticular wax on the labellum, which is enriched with chemical attractants, seems to be the luring mechanism. It is thought that these chemical odours are similar to the pheromone of the female bees, constituting a highly specific pollinator-attracting stimulus. The compounds capable of attracting male Eucera species and the pheromone(s) produced by Eucera females remain unknown, though.

Physically, the labellum with its specific colour patterning, reflectivity, and shape is also believed to provide short-range attraction to pollinators. In addition, the shape of the labellum and specific arrangement of the stiff trichomes presents a tactile stimulus, and also ensures the bees assume the correct position for pollination. The combination of these chemical and physical traits serves as an effective deception, ensuring the necessary pseudocopulation for cross-pollination (also see: Francisco, A., Ascensão. L. 2013. Structure of the osmophore and labellum micromorphology in the sexually deceptive orchids Ophrys bombyliflora and Ophrys tenthredinifera (Orchidaceae). International Journal of Plant Sciences. 174(4): 619-636 doi:10.1086/669911 ).

Sep 18, 2013: Coryanthes thivii

Coryanthes thivii

An entry written by Taisha:

Today's photo is of Coryanthes thivii, sometimes known as Thiv's coryanthes. It was photographed by douneika@Flickr at Viridalia 2013 (a horticultural event at Castello di Thiene in Italy). The image was contributed via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Thank you douneika!

Thiv's coryanthes is an epiphytic orchid species native to Bolivia, where it grows in humid lowland forests. Coryanthes as a group are known more commonly as the bucket orchids. Species from this genus are known to grow in what are called ant-gardens, which is an example of a mutualistic relationship. The orchids provide both nectar for the ants from extrafloral nectaries and a framework for ant-nest construction within the matrix of their root system, while the ants defend the orchid against herbivory and disperse the seeds of the orchid.

The pollination mechanism for this genus is also notable. Pollination in Coryanthes is carried out exclusively by male euglossine bees. The male bees are perfume-collectors who gather fragrant oils to attract females. In this orchid genus, the anthers and stigma are spatially separated. When the male bees are collecting the fragrance compounds, they fall into the liquid-filled bucket (hence, bucket orchids). The now-wet wings prevent the bees from flying to escape, while the slippery sides of the bucket force a single mode of exit. The bee must climb a column and out a passage formed by the column apex and the labellum. When exiting, pollinia from previous flower visits that were attached to the back of the bee may transfer to the stigma of the flower by the bee's forward movement. After the bee moves through the area of pollinia transfer, it still needs to struggle a bit to exit the flower and consequently may have pollinaia from this flower attach to its back. After drying off, the bee will often then visit another flower and repeat the process (see: Gerlach, G. 2011. The genus Coryanthes: A paradigm in ecology. (PDF) Lankesteriana. 11(3):253-264.).

Jun 28, 2013: Disperis johnstonii

The entry today was authored by Taisha, who writes:

Today's photos of Disperis johnstonii (image 1 | image 2) were taken by Bart Wursten in the Cheringoma limestone gorges of Mozambique on April 17, 2013. He notes that according to any literature he's investigated that this is the first time this species has been recorded for Mozambique. Thank you Bart for the many photos uploaded to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool, and for today's pictures!

Disperis johnstonii is a terrestrial orchid that grows up to 15cm. Plants typically grow in rich humus or sandy soil in grassy places under trees, often shaded by rocks. This species is widespread in tropical Africa, occurring in Nigeria, Cameroon, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

There are about twenty thousand species in the Orchidaceae. The morphology of orchids is quite diverse, however they typically have a floral anatomy made up of an outer whorl of three sepals, an inner whorl of two petals & labellum or lip, and a column made up of the stigma and pollinia. The genus Disperis is a group of orchids with a unique floral structure of having spurred lateral sepals and a reflexed labellum bearing an appendage.

Disperis johnstonii's flowers have yellow dorsal petals and a sepal (which are noted to sometimes be purple in East Africa) that form an open hood. The lateral sepals are white or very pale mauve with a spur-like depression in the centre. The labellum is curved back onto itself, with a pappilose appendage near the base and a papillose protuberance near the centre of its rounded apex. In the close-up photo, you can see it is covering the column. This species grows from ovoid-globose tubers with 2-3 alternate and ovate leaves that clasp the dark green stem at the base.

Feb 21, 2013: Diaphananthe pellucida

Today's entry was written by Bryant:

Thank you to frequent BPotD contributor Bart Wursten (aka zimbart@Flickr) for today's images of Diaphananthe pellucida, submitted via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool (image 1 | image 2).

This primarily epiphytic (sometimes lithophytic) member of the Orchidaceae is native to evergreen forested areas in a number of different African nations. Diaphananthe pellucida grows at elevations between 600 and 1800 meters (~2000-6000 feet). Plants are commonly located in moist pockets on tree trunks and branches. The flowers typically measure about 2cm (.7 inches) across, and occur abundantly on long downward-drooping racemes (20-50cm). More photographs of this species in its native habitat can be found via the species page for Diaphananthe pellucida on the Tropicos website.

Nov 22, 2012: Masdevallia veitchiana

Masdevallia veitchiana

Another entry authored by Bryant today. He writes:

Today's image of Masdevallia veitchiana was submitted by Damon Tighe (Damon Tighe@Flickr) via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Thank you for sharing, Damon.

Masdevallia veitchiana is native to Peru (where it is commonly referred to as gallo-gallo). It is a member of the Orchidaceae, and has a prominent history in the orchid trade. It was first collected by Richard Pearce in 1866, while he was on a plant exploration trip in the Andes of Peru. It became popular among the early Victorian orchid breeders for its vibrant orange colour and its elegant petals. Masdevallia veitchiana is a high-altitude and relatively cold-tolerant species, typically growing in the range of 2000 to 4000 metres (6500 to 13000 feet). The flowers are usually around 5 x 15cms and appear at the end of ~45cm long spikes or stems. The genus Masdevallia is comprised of around 500 species, with most being native to Central and South America.

For the interested gardener, Masdevallia veitchiana can be cultivated easily given the right conditions: it requires almost constant moisture and a decent amount of light to produce flowers. It enjoys temperatures ranging from 15 to 26 degrees Celsius (60-80 Fahrenheit), but will tolerate cool evening and nighttime temperatures as low as 0 degrees Celsius (32 F). It should be brought inside during extended periods of cold.

It is thought that the Inca also treasured this orchid for its beauty, perhaps even cultivating it. The Inca refer to this species as Waqanki (alternate spellings Wakanki or Wajanki), literally translated from Quechua to "you will cry". Apparently, Waqanki alludes to an ancient Incan legend of a distraught princess who fled into the forest after her love for a warrior was denied; the gods eventually relieved her of her sorrow by turning her into a flower (I could not find an original translation of the legend to share).

On a conservation note, many Peruvian orchids are under severe threat from overharvesting, deforestation and fires. To learn more about Peruvian orchids and some of the current conservation issues check out the article Peruvian Orchids in Danger, by Benjamin Collantes. For other information on orchid conservation efforts in and outside of Peru visit the site of the Orchid Conservation Coalition.

Oct 18, 2012: Brachycorythis lastii

Brachycorythis lastii

A thank you to zimbart@Flickr, aka Bart Wursten, for contributing today's photograph via the UBC Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool.

Brachycorythis lastii is a diminutive orchid species native to Brachystegia woodlands and riparian forest areas of tropical Africa. For a better sense of scale, visit the Flora of Zimbabwe page for Brachycorythis lastii and view more of Bart's photographs--the one with the person in it demonstrates that these plants only reach a few centimetres in height. Despite the small size of the plants, the flowers apparently have a potent lemon scent.

Lacking chlorophyll, it is almost a certainty that this orchid species maintains a persistent mycorrhizal relationship throughout its development and growth. However, I don't think the fungal partner(s) have yet been determined, as there seems to be little literature on the subject (available online).

Illustrations of Brachycorythis lastii can be seen on the Swiss Orchid Foundation web site.

Oct 9, 2012: Caladenia longicauda

Bryant is the author of today's entry. He writes:

Thank you to Pete (aka UnclePedro@Flickr) for this image of Caladenia longicauda, taken at the Wireless Hill Reserve in Western Australia.

Caladenia longicauda is a tuberous perennial orchid native to Western Australia (distribution map). It flowers from July through November, and is relatively common in areas that receive significant amounts of winter moisture. The characteristic fringed labellum is the cause for its common name, the white spider orchid, making this species relatively easy to distinguish. However, there are upwards of 12 subspecies and hybrids making precise identification difficult.

The inflorescence can be single-flowered or a small panicle of several flowers, occurring at the top of a slender 15cm-60cm stem. The colourful knob-like structures on the upper surface of the labellum are termed calli. The colouration of the calli and the fringes of the labellum are thought to play a major role in the pollination process. A scent similar to the pheromones produced by receptive female thynnine wasps is produced by glands in the flowers. Male thynnine wasps are attracted by this scent, and may land on the labellum, mistaking the colourful calli for a female wasp. As the male wasp searches for its (non-existent) partner, it may contact the stigma and dislodge any pollinia it may be carrying or pick up pollinia in the process. This phenomenon is called pseudocopulation, and is common within the genus Caladenia. It not yet certain whether this is the case for Caladenia longicauda, but given the high occurrence of such sexual deception among the genus, it is thought to be likely.

Jul 13, 2012: Platanthera praeclara

The western prairie fringed orchid or Great Plains white fringed orchid concludes the orchids of Manitoba series. Photographed at the Tolstoi Tall-Grass Prairie Preserve less than two weeks ago, this was one of only two plants we saw in flower. In a typical year in early July, I was told there should be hundreds in bloom, if not thousands. We spoke with someone in the area who had managed the land parcels for a couple decades: "It's the worst year I've ever seen [for blooms]". This, of course, was after walking a trail with ticks on a hot and muggy morning to find no discernible plants. Slow drives along the roadsides where the retired land parcel manager suggested they are typically easily found yielded no results. Finally, about 400m before the return to the highway and the trip back home, I spotted one.

While preparing to photograph it, Christie Borkowsky, a biologist with Manitoba's Critical Wildlife Habitat Program, happened to drive by. I had met Christie several weeks earlier while unsuccessfully looking for Cypripedium candidum in bloom (plants were found). On this day, she was working on plant counts for this species. Her count? About ten. She confirmed that the count would normally be in the hundreds, if not more. Christie has been working with Platanthera praeclara for at least a decade, initially studying pollinators of the western prairie fringed orchid. For a more in-depth look at her research, see Westwood, AR and CL Borkowsky. 2004. Sphinx Moth Pollinators for the Endangered Western Prairie Fringed Orchid Platanthera praeclara in Manitoba, Canada. (PDF) Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society. 58(1):13-20. As Christie was driving away, she pointed out the second plant in flower we saw that day about 40m down the road.

Platanthera praeclara is known only from the Great Plains of the USA and Manitoba (despite the broad range shown on the distribution map, it seems it has been declared extirpated in both South Dakota and Oklahoma). It is considered endangered in both the Canada and the USA, and is ranked A2ac by the IUCN Red List (Platanthera praeclara, meaning "An observed, estimated, inferred or suspected population size reduction of ≥ 50% over the last 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer, where the reduction or its causes may not have ceased OR may not be understood OR may not be reversible, based on direct observation and a decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence and/or quality of habitat". The section on populations of Platanthera praeclara on the IUCN site discusses both year-to-year fluctuations and overall declining trends in the species. For example, in Manitoba: "The number of plants occurring in Manitoba is difficult to determine because of dramatic fluctuations in numbers from season to season. A low of 1,818 plants were counted in 1995 and a high of 23,530 were recorded in 2003. Fluctuations in the number of flowering individuals are very common for this species, however, it is the overall decline in the numbers of reproductive individuals at each fragmented location which is of biological concern". I suspect 2012 will show a new low for Manitoba. Though we speculated as to why (perhaps the late frosts in the area (the ones that damaged the blooms of Cypripedium candidum or the heat in early spring followed by cool weather), it would require study since there are so many potential variables.

If you've enjoyed the series on orchids of Manitoba, you might like to visit the site of Manitoba's Native Orchid Conservation Inc., a non-profit organization whose purpose is "to protect unique mini-ecosystems and their plant communities. This primarily involves native orchids but can also extend to other rare and/or endangered plants". Their web site contains many additional photographs of Manitoba orchids and their Orchids of Manitoba: A Field Guide is an excellent resource if you can't resist top-notch field guides (like me).

Jul 12, 2012: Cypripedium arietinum

Cypripedium arietinum

Here is another Cypripedium for the orchids of Manitoba series. About 45 species of Cypripedium are recognized, with twelve occurring in North America (link shows 11 of the 12 species; the twelfth being the most difficult to access and find). This was the eighth of those twelve I've observed in bloom in the wild; I would have seen a ninth (Cypripedium candidum) had it not been for a late frost in Manitoba damaging the flowers (more on this tomorrow).

Cypripedium arietinum, or ram's-head lady's-slipper, is native to southern Canada and northeastern United States. As the Flora of North America notes, it is a species of "dry to moist open coniferous and mixed forests, coniferous-forested fens, [and] beach thickets". Habitat for the dozen or so individuals I observed was in coniferous-forested fens. The species is considered rare or threatened throughout most of its range, though the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has an excellent factsheet on Cypripedium arietinum that mentions a wider distribution previously (on a geological time scale).

Jul 11, 2012: Amerorchis rotundifolia

Amerorchis rotundifolia

Small-flowered but still showy, Amerorchis rotundifolia is today's featured species in the orchids of Manitoba series. The species is broadly distributed across Canada, some northern US states and Greenland. Where I've seen it in Manitoba and British Columbia, I've only seen a few plants here and there, but it can be found in large numbers in the right places.

The Flora of North America illustration for Amerorchis rotundifolia shows the single round leaf found at the base of the aboveground part of each plant, as do some of the photographs in the British Columbia E-Flora Photo Gallery: Amerorchis rotundifolia.

Amerorchis is a monotypic genus, with Amerorchis rotundifolia the only representative.

Jul 10, 2012: Cypripedium reginae

Cypripedium reginae

Continuing with the orchids of Manitoba series, today's entry features a species previously highlighted on Botany Photo of the Day: Cypripedium reginae, or the showy lady's-slipper. The difference is that this individual might be considered a pure white-flowered variant (PDF), which is uncommonly observed. Some people recognize the pure white-flowered variant as constituting a separate botanical form (f. albolabium), but the Flora of North America makes no such distinction: Cypripedium reginae. In this population of several hundred plants, all were paler than the typical (see previous BPotD entry), but only a few were pure white. This suggests to me that a white-flowered form should not be scientifically recognized, as the pink blushing varies along a more-or-less continuous gradient from being absent to strongly present. That said, it is worthwhile in horticulture to recognize colour variation. If seeking this species out for your garden (in any of its colour variants), be sure to purchase from a reputable nursery selling material propagated via tissue culture.

Jul 9, 2012: Calopogon tuberosus

Bryant is working on an upcoming thematic series, but since I have enough material from my recent two trips, I thought I'd do one too. This is the first entry in a series on the orchids of Manitoba.

Calopogon contains five recognized species, primarily distributed in the southeast USA and the West Indies. The one exception is today's species, Calopogon tuberosus, or tuberous grasspink. It has the broadest distribution, ranging from Manitoba to Newfoundland in the north to Texas, Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas in the south. Plants exhibit a morphological cline across its range; plants in the northeast tend to be shorter in height (4-20cm) with smaller flowers, while plants in the south can reach heights of 135cm and have much larger flowers. I would estimate these plants as being approximately 30-35cm in height.

While this species can be considered common (at least to its preferred environments: "acidic soils in fens, bogs, pine and oak savannas, grasslands, interdune swales") in parts of its range, in some states/provinces (e.g., Manitoba), it is listed as a rare species. I had actually been looking for a different rare orchid I had seen in the area previously, but none of those were to be found this trip. However, as I hadn't observed this species before, I was satisfied.

Orchids in this genus are exceptional in that they have non-resupinate flowers, that is, flowers that are not twisted upside-down. Most orchids have resupinate flowers.

Additional photographs and information are available via orchids of Wisconsin and Missouriplants.com: Calopogon tuberosus.

May 14, 2012: Vanilla roscheri and Vanilla planifolia

Continuing the series of white-flowered medicinal plants, Katherine writes:

Today's image is of Vanilla roscheri, and was taken by Ton Rulkens (tonrulkens@Flickr) "in the wild on the north Mozambique coast (Mecufi District)". The illustration of Vanilla planifolia is from Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen.

Vanilla roscheri is a rare orchid found in eastern and southeastern Africa. Due to deficient data, the conservation status of the species globally is unknown, but in South Africa it is considered endangered due to urban expansion, habitat degradation, invasive species and agriculture. Commonly known as Roscher's vanilla, Vanilla roscheri is found in open bushlands, scrub, mangroves and open evergreen scrub to an elevation of about 1050m (3450 ft.). Sweetly fragrant, the flowers of the plants bloom in the (tropical and subtropical) winter. Plants are succulent vining climbers.

Medicinal information for "vanilla" almost always refers to the extract of vanillin from the commercial Vanilla planifolia, originally of Mesoamerica and northern South America. Vanilla roscheri also seems to contain the compound, as use of the species has been documented in traditional medicines of African indigenous peoples. An excellent article on the origin and use of vanilla is available from UCLA's Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library's Medicinal Spices Exhibit, where the following from Robert Bentley and Henry Trimen's Medicinal Plants; being descriptions with original figures of the principal plants employed in medicine and an account of the characters, properties, and uses of their parts and products of medicinal value (London, Churchill, 1880) is quoted: "Vanilla is an aromatic stimulant, with a tendency towards the nervous system. It has also been regarded as an aphrodisiac. It has been employed as a remedy in hysteria, low fevers, impotency, etc. But its use as a medicine is obsolete in this country, although still sometimes employed on the Continent and elsewhere."

Feb 1, 2012: Calypso bulbosa

Calypso bulbosa

Unfortunately, it is another busy week for me, so only a short entry today. Thank you to mossgreen2011@Flickr aka Michael McNaughton for sharing this photograph from June 2010 (Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool | original image). It's appreciated.

The Calypso orchid has previously been featured on BPotD: Calypso bulbosa from May 2, 2005 and Calypso bulbosa from May 23, 2005. Like the species of Leontochir featured in the previous BPotD entry, it is monotypic (the only species in the genus).

Dec 15, 2011: Thelymitra crinita

Thelymitra crinita

Another thank you to Pete (aka UnclePedro@Flickr) for sharing an image with us. Today's photograph of Thelymitra crinita was submitted via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Much appreciated!

Native to southwestern corner of Australia, in one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, Thelymitra crinita is one of about 100 members of the genus. In its native range, blue lady orchid (or queen orchid) flowers from September to November.

Oct 24, 2011: Caladenia georgei

Caladenia georgei

Today's entry was written by Katherine. She writes:

Thank you to sloanbj@Flickr (aka Benjamin Sloan) for this beautiful picture of Caladenia georgei, a native to Western Australia. Commonly called George's caladenia or Tuart spider orchid, Caladenia georgei has recently been renamed in two different publications. Benjamin posted the photograph under the name Arachnorchis georgei (Hopper & A.P.Br.) D.L.Jones & M.A.Clem., a name which has been used elsewhere occasionally since its publication in a 2002 paper in Orchadian. The other name is Calonemorchis georgei (Hopper & A.P.Br.) Szlach. & Rutk., published in 2003 in Richardiana. We've opted to use the accepted name from The Plant List. As noted by the Pacific Bulb Society, the name Caladenia is from the Greek words calos meaning "beautiful", and aden meaning "glands, due to the "colourful labellum and the glistening glands at the base of the column".

Caladenia georgei, a member of Orchidaceae, has a 1-3 flowered inflorescence and blooms in spring (September-October) with white, red, and yellow flowers. The Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia states that Caladenia georgei is a species of low elevations (sea level to 80m). Plants grow in scrub on stabilized sand.

Jul 21, 2011: Corallorhiza maculata var. maculata

Corallorhiza maculata var. maculata

This entry and (I neglected to mention, but now corrected) the two previous entries were written by Alexis:

Thank you to PietervH@Flickr for sharing this picture of Corallorhiza maculata var. maculata, taken in Newfoundland, Canada.

Corallorhiza, the coral-root orchids, are myco-heterotrophs, vascular plants species that rely on a parasitic relationship with fungi to supply the necessary nutrients to grow. Corallorhiza species have rhizomes instead of roots and even if stems cannot be seen above ground, oftentimes the rhizomes and fungi remain dormant underground. Flowering stems emerge when conditions are favourable (Luer's The Native Orchids of the United States and Canada (1975)).

Corallorhiza maculata is among the most common and variable of the coral-roots. The stem, sepals, and petals of Corallorhiza maculata var. maculata can be anywhere from brownish-purple to yellowish. The name maculata is Latin for "spotted" (contrast with immaculate, i.e., spotless), a reference to the dark purple spots commonly found on the flower's white labellum, which is a modified petal used for attracting pollinators. Varying plant colours sometimes delineate different varieties of the species. As an example, if Corallorhiza maculata var. flavida is recognized as a valid variety (it is not so recognized by the Flora of North America), then it is distinguished by its lemon-yellow appearance and bright white unspotted labellum (Szczawinski's The Orchids of British Columbia (1959)).

Corallorhiza maculata grows best in the decaying humus of coniferous or mixed forests, flowering anywhere from April to September. The range of the species extends across Canada from British Columbia to Newfoundland, south through much of the western USA and northeastern USA, as well as Mexico and Guatemala.

Dec 23, 2010: Cypripedium acaule

Cypripedium acaule

Of my many enjoyable botanical experiences of 2010, I would rank highly the afternoon I spent with Brian Carson of the Ottawa area in early June. Brian is an avid Trillium enthusiast, and especially keen on finding double-flowered individuals in the wild. Given the rareness of double-flowered trilliums, this necessitates a lot of exploration -- and that experience in seeking out wildflowers in forests made Brian an excellent guide (I don't often get taken to see plants, instead either leading others or exploring on my own). Among other things, Brian took me to see a very densely growing population of hundreds of Cypripedium acaule, or moccasin's flower, growing with little else in the pine needle duff of (what I vaguely recall to be) a Pinus resinosa plantation.

If you're a long-time reader of BPotD and have a sense of plant biodiversity, you'll know that terrestrial orchids of North America are hugely overrepresented on Botany Photo of the Day in proportion to any other grouping of plant species. To me, though, they are some of the first species I recognized as such -- it helped growing up near two ecological reserves in Manitoba set aside specifically for preserving orchid species (Libau Bog and Brokenhead Wetland). However, despite all the orchids nearby, I only remember observing a few plants of Cypripedium acaule in a single location in the Mars Hill Wildlife Management Area during my time there (MHWMA was even nearer to my home). It was a special treat to see hundreds of plants, even though the species itself is widespread in eastern North America and extending into boreal western Canada. In some jurisdictions, it is rare or endangered (e.g., Illinois).

The Manitoba and Quebec locales where I've seen Cypripedium acaule both had the well-draining (sandy) and acidic soils with partial shade typically preferred by the species. I saw two other plants in bloom during that early June trip in Ontario at the Mer Bleue Conservation Area near Ottawa, but these were growing in sphagnum and with more exposure to the sun.

The epithet acaule means "stemless", so named because the flower is borne on a scape: a leafless axis that arises directly from a caudex or rhizome at or near the surface of the ground.

Flora of North America has a scientific description of Cypripedium acaule, while the Digital Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador Vascular Plants has many more images: Cypripedium acaule.

Aug 26, 2010: Cymbidium sinense 'Da Shun'

Cymbidium sinense 'Da Shun'

Continuing with the series on "Biodiversity of China", here's another orchid contribution from Eric in SF@Flickr (also see: orchidphotos.org). The original image can be viewed via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Always grateful for your contributions, Eric.

Of the twenty-five to thirty thousand species of orchids in the world, China boasts approximately 1400. Of these, nearly 500 are endemic. Cymbidium sinense, despite being named after China (sinense), is not among the endemics -- it has a range extending to Japan, India, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam. Chinese cymbidium has been cultivated and hybridized for nearly a millenia (since at least the Southern Song), with 'Da Shun' being one of the dozens, if not hundreds, of cultivars.

One of the main attractions of Cymbidium sinense is the fragrance. From what I've read (but haven't experienced), each cultivar produces a slightly different scent. On 'Da Shun' (and the species in general), Eric describes the fragrance as "...heavenly and intoxicating. There are multiple high-end perfumes based on [the scent of the species and cultivars of Cymbidium sinense]".

In the wild, the species grows in "forests, wet and well-drained shaded places in thickets along streamsides" at elevations of 300-2000m (1000-6500ft.), according to the Flora of China.

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