My friend Cate, known in the blogging world as Awacate, had told me about this strange orchid her father had brought her mother from the East of Venezuela that was doing really well at her house. When she sent me a picture it turned out to be a Coryanthes, one of the weirdest of orchids as you can see in the pictures below. I believe based on the Field Guide of Orchids of Venezuela by Dunsterville and Garay that it is a Coryanthes Speciosa. This week Cate called me up and told me that it was in flower again and invited me to her house to see it and take some pictures. It was a very nice visit and great to see my first Coryanthes Speciosa in my life. Coryanthes is not an easy plant to take care of and have flower regularly, but this one seems pleases as punch to be at Cate’s house in Caracas.
I have borrowed the figure below right from this description of the pollination of Coryanthes, which is based on a description by Gernolt Bergold, a scientist I knew many years ago and who has now passed away. Bassically, the flower has two Pleurids which drip water into the bucket (Thus the nickname “bucket” orchid). The bees get attracted to the flower and as they get in its complex structure, they tend to fall in the bucket. The bee with the wet wings has a hard time leaving the flower, unless it gets out via a hole right next to the pollinia which get stuck on the back of the bee. As the bee falls into the same trap in another flower, it fertilizes via the column in the other orchid. Quite a feat of evolution! (Read more on the link). By the way, the flowers last only two or three days.