Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rose Pogonia

The Rose Pogonia Orchid is a little bog beauty.
 Pogonia ophioglossoides, the Rose Pogonia
 This little orchid bountifully adorns open patches of bogs. What a thrill to step out of the woods and see the bog decorated with these pink gems.
 Orchids each have their own pollination trick that they use on the pollinators.  What does the Rose Pogonia do to bees? 
   First, it attracts the bumblebees with pseudopollen (those yellow hairs that look like pollen) on a convenient landing pad.  Then when the bumblebee finds no reward, it pokes its head under that pinkish column where any pollen sprinkled on its back at previous pogonias will come in contact with the stigma.

 When the disappointed bee backs out, the hinged end of the column opens and dumps fresh pollen on the bumblebee's back.  Reminds me of a garbage truck dumping its load.
Nifty apparatus!

 Obviously, lots of bees get plastered as evidenced by the photo below.
The Rose Pogonia, a glittering jewel of the bog plants, growing thick in a Pennsylvania bog.

I hope lots of bumblebees get fooled again this year.


  1. Dana, I don't get it. Why 'fool' the bee ? Aren't they pollinating stuff anyway ? What is the significance of it being on the bees back rather than its feet ?

    Curiously yours,


  2. Sybil,
    One reason to "fool" the bees is that providing nectar and pollen rewards are expensive to the plant. The strategy is a trade off... less energy cost but fewer bees (eventually the naive bees get smart to the tricks and lose interest in the flowers).
    Placing pollen on a bees back goes right along with that "cost cutting strategy". By keeping the pollen in a hard to reach location on the bee, the pollen is reserved for its job of pollinating instead of food for the bee.
    That nifty pollinating apparatus also helps to ensure cross-pollination.