Orchids are fascinating plants
Plants are very underestimated in photography. For example; a picture of a plant will never win a big wildlife photocompetition. And for the ones who think plants aren’t real wildlife? You got it wrong! I will write this blog about the most fascinating plant group ‘Orchids’ to show you why. During my biology course I did some research on the orchids of the Swedish islands Oland and Gotland. Both of the islands are covered with a big layer of limestone. This displays in an amazing coastline and very diverse vegetation. The orchids are big lovers of limestone soil and that explains the high amount of orchid species on these islands. Their beauty in display, rarety and ways to survive and reproduce got my interest and became a passion.
Orchids in Europe
The orchids are well known, but NOT in Europe. In the garden shop you can buy plenty of tropical species like the phalaeonopsis in all sorts of colors and sizes. But the wild European orchids are quit unknown. Let me introduce you to some European beauties:
The forms of the orchid flowers are very important. It’s part of their way of reproduce. From tiny inflorescence to big individual flowers. Each of them unique. To give you two extremes: the ‘lady slipper’ with her big and colorful flowers and the autumn lady’s-tresses with tiny white flowers that runs like a helix around the upper half of the stem.
Some of them are masters in imitation. For example have a look at the military orchid above. The individual flowers of this orchid looks like a pink soldier with an huge army helmet. But some of them use their ability of imitation even for their reproduce strategy. In some cases the flower looks a lot like an insect. For example this fly- and bee orchid. When the male fly recognizes the flower as a female, he wants to mate. By landing on the back of the flower he will be pollinated by the orchid. When he is stupid enough to do this twice, the fly orchid reproduction is succeeded.
The flower of the orchids are also very variable over different species. A very large group of them are purple. But you have yellow, red, white, greenish, brown species as well. The color is very important for the attraction of the insects. A big bunch of orchids are deceptive and don’t even have nectar on board. Because of their attractive look, they still receive visitors without giving them any reward. You also got some orchids without chloroplast and are totally brown. They steal nutrients from other plants and are able to grew in dark places in the forest.
Then the flower fragrance.. Another way to get those insects interested. The Greater Butterfly Orchid is a great example. They spread an attractive scent in the night to get the attention of the Elephant Hawk Moth. The sticky ends of the pollen will stick to the eyes of the moth (as you can see on the picture) to get another orchid pollinated.
One of the most prettiest orchids in Europe must be the Lady Slipper. The flowers are gorgeaus and reminds me of the tropical orchids. The name comes from the big lip of the flower that looks like a female slipper. This orchid also got a very unique way of reproduction. The tongue of the orchid attracts insects by the nice smell, but the tongue is also very slippery. When the insects land on the tongue they will fall into the ‘slipper’. The only way out is through the pollen of the orchid.
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