February 2, 2012

Angraecum breve

This tiny orchid is from Madagascar, a country that has some very unique and wonderful orchids.  It belongs to a group of orchids that have white and green flowers and very long spurs.  It is also fragrant, especially at night, which means it is pollinated by night-flying insects who are attracted by the fragrance and who use the nectar for food.

I am totally charmed by this plant, however, both for its size, for its white flowers and for the spur which gradually uncurls as the flower opens.  Most Angraecums are large plants and some are huge. This plant is a little fan 4 cm (1.5 in.) across, the flower is 3 cm (1 in. plus) in size and the spur is over 10 cm long (approx. 4.5 in.) when the flower opens and it is fully uncurled.

It was an Angraecum, a different species and a much larger plant, with flowers carrying a 12 inch spur, that Darwin used to predict the existence of a moth with a 12 inch tongue. This flower is probably also moth pollinated.  I've included pictures of the unopened bud with the spur curled up and a pictures taken as the flower opened and the spur uncurled.

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