Monday, June 27, 2011

Grass-Pink Orchid

The Grass-pink Orchid, Calopogon tuberosus, steals the show in the bogs right now.  Since orchids play tricks on bees, I'll demonstrate the grass-pink's bee flopping mechanism shortly.  First, check out the spectacular orchid flowers in these next pictures.
The Grass-Pink Orchid,  Calopogon tuberosus
When were slogging through the bog for these pictures, we would see some of the orchids here and some there. We would say, "Hey look at that darker one over there".... slog, slog ..."Oh, there's one growing on a rotting log"...slog, slog... "Whoa, the gulper almost got me there!"...."Wow, look there's a whole bunch!"
Earlier I said the Grass-pinks were stealing the show.  That is because they add a dash of brilliant color across the otherwise green bog.  Also, the purple pitcher plant's flowers have lost their petals and their charm.
 You can see some faded flowers of the once spectacular Purple Pitcher Plant in the background.  I wanted to focus on the new "bog star" in that photo.

The Grass-pink's flower looks upside down.  This upside down position is part of the bee-flopping design.
Bumblebees are attracted to the fringes (fake pollen), expecting some pollen.
 When a bee lands on that hinged upper part of the flower it gets flopped down on its back into that little cradle where the sticky pollinia is adhered to its back.
 Here is a demonstration.
 The bee lands on the fringes (below the pointing finger)
 and ends up on its back, sandwiched between the fringes and the column of the lower part of the flower.

The bee leaves this predicament with no reward and hopefully goes to another Grass-pink where the process is repeated.  Meanwhile, the orchid is cross-pollinated ... the purpose of this orchid's bee-flopping pollination mechanism.
 Wouldn't it be nice to have a different species of orchid to find every day?  Pity the bees if there were.
A bog beauty waiting to bop a bee.


  1. Dana,

    What a very neat plant. I still don't understand why it needs to "trick" a bee. Isn't the bee pollinating the flowers anyway ? What is the purpose of the trickery ?

  2. Sybil,

    Yes, it is neat that a pretty flower and an elaborate pollination mechanism go together.

    I suppose the purpose of the trickery is to conserve energy (no reward for the bee) and to efficiently (precise positioning of pollen) cross-pollinate the plants. In other words, the trickery could be for good reproductive success with less effort.
    Additionally, those pollination contraptions could be because of creativity of the Designer...there is more than one way to get the job (pollination) done, so, why not make things interesting?