Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Orchid Is More Than We Think: Excerpt From Black Orchid Night

“Somehow orchids managed to spread their beauty over six continents. They have successfully found a home in every conceivable terrestrial habitat. They earned respect in the botany world not only for their delicate beauty, but also for being the most diverse family of flowering plants. There are more than 25,000 species of orchids in 880 genres. The secret to their success in a word is sex. Not what we term normal sex. It is more like really weird sex. The Bucket Orchid is no exception. This pesky flower captures unsuspecting bees and uses them for its rather ingenious sexual ritual.

The Australian hammer orchids are also cruel beauties. The wingless female wasps that become sexual prey have no idea what’s in store for them. The flightless female wasp waits for a male wasp at the top of the stem. The male will pick her up and mate with her in mid-air. The hammer orchid effectively mimics the female wasp, and excites the unsuspecting male wasp to the point of ejaculation. The dupe male wasp is utterly fooled. He is so convinced that the orchid is a female wasp that he even extends his genital claspers into the orchid. The sexual scam is a double victory for the orchid. The natural deceit makes the female wasp reproduce asexually. That sexual behavior produces only male wasps. Female wasps are the result of actual wasp-to-wasp mating. When the male wastes his sperm on the orchid, more females become asexual, which means there are more male wasps to pollinate the hammer orchid.”

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