This new orchid fertilises itself… but don’t go eating it as an aphrodisiac!

 

New to Nature No 138: Gastrodia flexistyloides

This new orchid fertilises itself… but don’t go eating it as an aphrodisiac

‘Clever variation’: the new orchid.

Quentin Wheeler

Sunday 25 January 2015 07.00 GMT

Many evolutionary biologists, including Charles Darwin in Fertilisation of Orchids (1862), have written about the bizarre and improbable contrivances by which orchids attract insect pollinators. Some orchids go so far as to mimic a female insect in appearance to attract an amorous male as an unwitting partner in pollination. A recently discovered orchid, Gastrodia flexistyloides, takes a very different approach. Like the similar G. flexistyla, it has a three-lobed column bearing the pollen. Two lobes are upright while the third is sharply curved in – and downward. There is a very good reason for this. These orchids are self-pollinating. Moreover, their flowers are cleistogamous. That is, the sexual bits are tightly enclosed within flowers that never open.