Okay, so call me a voyeur, but Mother Nature has really outdone herself in devising clever ways to ensure that her beautiful creations propagate themselves successfully. I was mesmerized listening to NPR’s Science Friday yesterday as Flora Lichtman regaled listeners with “An Orchid Explosion:” the story of the orchid genus catasetum, about which Charles Darwin wrote: “I never was more interested in any subject in all my life than in this of Orchids.”
As you’ll see in the short video below, the male flower of this genus has developed a marvelously sensitive and intricately adapted pollination system whereby it actually propels a package of sticky pollen onto the backs of visiting bees. Not just any bees, though…only male euglossine bees. The report says that the weight of the pollen package relative to the bee is comparable to a human being hit by a bowling ball, but the bees are attracted to the flower for the scent that they pick up and use to attract a mate. Every detail of the the flower and bee…and indeed also of the female flower when the bee arrives and deposits the pollen there…functions together to ensure successful outcomes.
The marvelous and myriad systems in God’s creation are such beautiful manifestations of the Power of Connection, and understanding them connects us with the wider web of Life and reminds us of how interdependent living things are.
Photo credit: Elizabeth H. Cottrell, taken at Longwood Gardens, Oct. 2009. Note, the orchid in this photo is not the same genus discussed in the NPR program cited.
Video credit: NPR website: images, footage courtesy of Jacques Dumais, Daniel Fulop, Gustavo Romero. music by ECPE. Darwin recreation: Aleszu Bajak.
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