Orchids are considered one of the oldest living species of plants in the world. They have been around since the time of dinosaurs and can virtually be found anywhere on earth. In fact they are considered one of the most successful plant groups in the world. And the secret to this success has been found!
It is widely known that orchids heavily rely on pollinators to spread their species. Their flowers’ unique designs have a very specific use and that is to attract pollinators. But what most of us don’t know is that their relationship with these pollinators is one of their biggest secrets to success. The precision of where the flower sticks its pollen to its pollinator actually holds the key to its longevity.
Orchids can essentially share the same pollinators (read: the same exact bee) to deliver their pollen to their same genus. What basically happens is that orchids actually choose where to stick their pollen on the body of a bee. Two orchids of different genera can use one bee for pollination and not get their pollen mixed up with each other. One can stick it on the bee’s stomach and the other can stick it to its legs. This ingenuity ensures that even if there are only a few pollinators, orchids can still successfully mate.
Another secret kept by orchids to ensure that their species stand the test of time is through guarding their personal unique nutrient-supplying fungus. They have their own fungi completely unique from other flowering plants (even their co-orchids) to ensure that only they can utilize its nutrient-supplying capabilities.
The sad part to keep in mind is due to the decrease in the population of insects that helps orchids pollinate – like the bees, wasps and butterflies – there is a huge possibility that these ancient plants will also become extinct. Learning these secrets to their success can hopefully make us more aware and be able to help them eliminate the threat of extinction.
Aren’t orchids amazing? Share your thoughts below by leaving a comment.
If you are new to the orchid world, here are some orchid care tips to get you started.