Some years, the first daffodils bloom about now, but this year almost everything in the garden is either dead or in deep dormancy. For a little floral color, I have to rely on my greenhouse.
Here are three orchids with nothing much in common except that they bloom now.
1. Mormolyca ringens
This little orchid from Mexico and central America blooms pretty much all year round, with a single flower on each wiry inflorescence. Like a surprising number of orchids, M. ringens is pollinated by pseudocopulation. In other words, it induces naive (or desperate) male bees to mate with its flowers . The labellum of the flower resembles the rear end of a small red-and-yellow bee, and it even produces a scent that mimics the pheromones of virgin queens . Drones that attempt to mate with the flower transfer pollen to and from the overhanging yellow column.
2. Brassia species (spider orchid)
Brassia orchids also deceive their insect pollinators, but the mechanism would probably be better described as “pseudo-predation” rather than pseudocopulation. Brassia flowers are pollinated by spider-hunter wasps which attack and repeatedly sting the labellum, apparently mistaking it for the body of a large spider .
I think this is probably the Mexican/central American B. verrucosa, but I am not certain. It has been suggested that there are actually two different species circulating under that name , and in any case, Brassia species all look very similar to my non-expert eye.
3. Broughtonia Jamaica Jester (B. negrilensis x B. ortgesiana)
This is an artificial hybrid of two Broughtonia species, the Jamaican B. negrilensis and Cuban B. ortgesiana which was registered by Claude Hamilton, a well known grower and hybridizer of Caribbean orchid species.
1. Singer, R.B., Flach, A., Koehler, S., Marsaioli, A.J., and Do Carmo E. Amaral, M. (2004). Sexual mimcry in Mormolyca ringens (Lindl.) Schltr. (Orchidaceae: Maxillariinae). Annals of Botany 93: 755-762.
2. Flach, A., Marsaioli, A.J., Singer, R.B., Do Carmo E. Amaral, M., Menezes, C., Kerr, W.E., Batista-Pereira, L.G., Correa, A.G. (2006) Pollination by sexual mimicry in Mormolyca ringens: a floral chemistry that remarkably matches the pheromones of virgin queens of Scaptotrigona sp. Journal of Chemical Ecology 32: 59-70.
3. Pupulin, F. and Bogarin, D. (2005) The genus Brassia in Costa Rica: A survey of four species and a new species. Orchids 74 : 202-207.