Field of Science

Nocturnal orchid

Nocturnal flowering is rather uncommon even in the tropics. Quite a few flowers open in the evening, for example, nutmegs, but the flowers remain open through the next day at least. And of course there are several bat and moth pollinated flowers. Several palms flower at night attracting hordes of beetles. But a completely nocturnal orchid is news because of all the crazy things orchids do, nocturnal flowering was not one of them. Since this orchid (Bulbophyllum nocturnum) flowered in captivity no one is certain about the pollinators, but some type of small insect certainly, perhaps a small dipteran. The dangly little filamentous appendages are strange, and they may either mimic some sort of insect or help disperse a particular floral odor, or both. In general the flowers of orchids in this genus are pretty small, ca. 1 cm diameter. Unfortunately and particularly with the fadish approach to science funding in the USA, even the small amounts of support needed to fund tropical field work are difficult to find, which makes such discoveries really difficult.

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