Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - Vanilla

The Phactor would be quite remiss to not post a FFF for the 2nd week in a row and it was kind of readers not to mention this.  This is a pretty attractive flower, but this is the best photo that could be acquired with any ease at all since the silly plant has climbed a tall Madagascan succulent and now hangs down from way above.  This is a species of Vanilla, an orchid, V. aphylla to be exact.  Aphylla means without leaves, and indeed the leaves of this species are reduced to a vestigial size and the vine, which climbs by means of contractile, grasping adventitious roots, conducts its photosynthesis in its green stem.  Clearly this species is adapted to drier habitats, one of which is probably rather exposed tree trunks.   No one is certain if this plant is still in contact with soil anywhere; it seems to get all the water it needs from the humidity or a spray of water every few days.  It's a native of SE Asia and came from Thailand a long time ago.  From this angle you can just see the hairy purple nature of the throat in contrast to the greenish yellow of the other perianth parts, which are about 5-6 cm across. 

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