1. Sili says


    Seeing that sorta mimicry, I can’t decide whether to be grateful or disappointed that humans aren’t great pollinators …

  2. droserary says

    Ah yes, the bucket orchids. There are some more convoluted mechanisms out there. My favorite is the active movement of the fused stigma and anther of Stylidium, the triggerplants, that “gently” dusts pollinators with pollen on the back in milliseconds when the insect triggers the column mechanism. That’s some aggressive sex these plants are involved in, S&M style.

  3. ChrisD says


    Bucket Orchid variant. Bee gets ‘trapped’ inside and must slide past some pollen via a separate exit.

  4. Stanton says

    More information please. What am I looking at?

    You’re looking at bucket orchids. They dupe bees into crawling inside, using alluring fragrances, whereupon the bee falls into a small chamber of fluid. As the soggy bee crawls up the exit route, the bee gets a sac of pollen stuck onto its back.

    And, then, later, the bee will fly into a second bucket orchid, repeat the whole process, though, this time, it pollinates the second flower while it gets a second pollen sac attached.

  5. mmelliott01 says

    Ah. I thought perhaps one of those two images was of an insect mimicking a plant part.

  6. OrchidGrowinMan says

    Curious there’s no explanation here…. The story is waaay more interesting than the cool pictures.

    This orchid, Coryanthes actually has a “bucket” that is filled with fluid that drips from a pair of glands. It is NOT nectar (I’ve heard that it tastes soapy and horrible). What happens is that a pollinating insect lands on the flower, slips into the pool, and finds that there is only one way out, a squeeze that guarantees that it will 1) deposit any pollen (actually, pollinia) stuck to it by another flower in a certain spot (ooh, baby, right there!), and 2) pick up pollinia from this flower. The insect spends quite a bit of time after this ordeal cleaning itself of the irritating fluid (while the pollinia on it dry and bend into “deposit” position), and like the dumb insect it is, it goes in search of another flower (presumably hoping the next one won’t play the same tricks).

    The flowers only last a few days, like the related Stanhopea, and the plant is difficult to grow. Its natural habitat is as a component of epiphytic “ant gardens” where it is presumably subjected to nutrient-rich very acidic conditions, and very very well protected from predation (or collectors). Some growers water it with coffee.

    If you want to see another cool orchid, look up Porroglossum which has moving parts like Stylidium or the (non-orchid) Nesocodon whose blue flowers “bleed” red nectar (that contains an unique pigment).

    That Is All

  7. CustomLifeScienceImages says

    Thank you PZ for using my photo!

    I don’t have anything about this species to add to what Stanton and OrchidGrowinMan have written above, but I would like to mention that this photo appears in The Greatest Show on Earth, by Richard Dawkins. I can’t claim any personal connection with Dr. Dawkins, though; his publisher licensed the photo through my photo agency (Alamy Images), entirely unaware that the photographer was a regular lurker at Pharyngula.

    I’d like to encourage people to make fair use of the photo (of course, there’s nothing I can do to stop fair use, by definition). If you would like to make unfair use of the photo, or if you are considering a use of uncertain fairness, feel free to contact me at mcintyre[at], and we’ll discuss it.