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Aug 31 2011

Botanical Wednesday: Yes, mistress

I don’t know whether to be intimidated or aroused by the description that goes with this image. Or both.

The dominatrices of the orchid world are the Bucket Orchids. They are pollinated by orchid bees that want the plant’s aromatic oils to use them in their courtship dance with females. But what the poor bees go through to get them!

The orchids secrete the aromatic fluid into the bucket-shaped lip, and
the bee will often fall into the fluid at the bottom of the bucket. There are knobs inside that go one way but the rest of the bucket is lined with smooth hairs pointing downwards and so that they can’t climb back up.

Finally following the knobs, the bees come to what looks like freedom, a spout exiting. The orchid, however, has no intention of letting the bee go yet. Instead, it constricts the spout and presses pollen packets against its thorax, keeping it there until the “glue” has set. Finally, it is set free to go and find another orchid and this time displace the pollen packets to pollinate it. It can take up to 45 minutes for the bee to escape the orchid as it is kept trapped for the orchids sexual needs and bent to her will.

Wait, this sounds like my home life!

(Also on Sb)

22 comments

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  1. 1
    Randomfactor

    PZ haz a buckit?

  2. 2
    Glen Davidson

    Oh well, it’s a story that the orchid bee can tell his love that he went through “just for her.” And the smell confirms it.

    For his sake, let’s hope she doesn’t think it’s just a cheap knock-off.

    Glen Davidson

  3. 3
    Putting On The Foil

    How closely are these related to pitcher plants?

  4. 4
    Midnight Rambler

    Very, very distantly; only in that they’re both flowering plants. More interesting, from that perspective, is that New World and Old World pitcher plants aren’t related to each other; they developed the pitcher independently.

  5. 5
    Gyeong Hwa

    Convergent evolution for the win!

  6. 6
    BCskeptic

    Yet more evidence of intelligent design. You know, ’cause “he” ‘wanted it that way’. Perhaps a bit of a hobby for that sadistic, genocidal maniac of the Bible?

    Shear beauty.

  7. 7
    Rorschach

    Clearly this construction with bucket, knobs, spout and pollen packets is irreducibly complex and could not have arisen spontaneously. Therefore, Yahweh.

  8. 8
    Noadi

    Anyone else now have the mental image of PZ in a rope suspension with a ball gag in his mouth? Or is that just me?

  9. 9
    Kevin Anthoney

    I hope Mary doesn’t let you off that easily!

  10. 10
    NotAProphet

    Has nobody else twigged that the mechanisms for the dispersal of pollen are in fact male?

  11. 11
    =8)-DX

    Heh, read about that first in Darwin I think. He didn’t however give it the proper BDSM tint. Oh no.. rule 34 on orchid bondage?

    By the way, is there some reason female humans are delighted when being presented with the decapitated genital organs of plants?

    @NotAProphet: Ow… that makes for even more confusing mental images.

  12. 12
    Pepijn

    What a bizarrely complex mechanism. I wonder why orchids evolved these elaborate contraptions when a simple flower is enough for most plants.

  13. 13
    Therrin

    Anyone else now have the mental image of PZ in a rope suspension with a ball gag in his mouth? Or is that just me?

    Well, I didn’t.

  14. 14
    Dhorvath, OM

    I am having images, that’s to be sure, but I can’t say as it’s PZ that I imagined doing the wriggling. I like tight spaces and I cannot lie.

  15. 15
    Mattir-ritated

    PZ, you really shouldn’t have been so shocked when I told you that your blog had led to the weirdest kid sex question in history. I mean, what’s Mom, why would someone make a Baby Jesus Butt Plug? compared to this lurid erotica? Not to mention that luscious slug sex from a few weeks back.

    You, sir, are Corrupting The Young. Good for you.

    (Wanna come to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival to meet some sheep, Walton, and DDMFM all in the same place?)

  16. 16
    Worldtraveller

    I hope Mary doesn’t let get you off that easily!

    FTFY. =)

  17. 17
    'Tis Himself

    Mattir-ritated #15

    PZ, you really shouldn’t have been so shocked when I told you that your blog had led to the weirdest kid sex question in history. I mean, what’s Mom, why would someone make a Baby Jesus Butt Plug? compared to this lurid erotica? Not to mention that luscious slug sex from a few weeks back.

    I missed it. What’s the weirdest kid sex question in history?

    Incidentally, as an economist, I already know the answer to “why would someone make a Baby Jesus Butt Plug?”.

  18. 18
    Mattir-ritated

    @Tis, surely you’ve heard that I wandered to my living room one evening, to find DaughterSpawn reading Pharyngula? She’d just found a reference to the BJBP in the comments, and whammo, there was The Question™.

    When I told PZ this anecdote at a convention, he was struck with an utterly baffled, embarrassed, and horrified expression. As one might, when accosted by a total stranger who tells you that such a question resulted from Spawn reading one’s blog…

  19. 19
    Algernon

    when a simple flower is enough for most plants.

    Orchids aren’t most plants.

    :P

  20. 20
    Anthony K

    Orchids aren’t most plants.
    :P

    Actually, pffft! describes Orchidaceae as being the largest family of flowering plants, with ~22,000 to ~26,00 species in 880 genera. It would seem orchids could define ‘most flowering plants’, unless you want to allow for unholy paraphyletic alliances.

    </jerk>

  21. 21
    Algernon

    Well then I guess what I should have said is that Bucket Orchids aren’t most plants.

    /begin jerk

  22. 22
    NitricAcid

    There, there, Algernon- have some flowers.

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