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Excerpts from
VOLUME 75, NO. 1—January, February, March 2011
Celebrating 75 years!
 

Orchids and Hummingbirds: Sex in the Fast Lane
Carol Siegel
10 pages, 13 photos

    Part bully, all swagger, hummingbirds are tiny bundles of ego and attitude with no humility or fear. The smallest warm-blooded avian creatures, they hover like a helicopter, consume energy like a jet plane, and glitter in the sunlight like a precious jewel. It is fitting that this most magnificent evolutionary miracle should be a pollinator for the equally magnificent evolutionary miracle that is the orchid.
    Hummingbirds are thought to have started their evolutionary path toward orchids after gobbling insects in mid-air. In the course of searching for insects and spiders inside flowers as well, they stumbled upon the delicious nectar set out to lure insect pollinators and so began their life as nectar feeders. Never looking back, they evolved the ability to hover efficiently to access the nectar bounty while the orchids evolved characteristics to make them even more irresistible to their new pollinators. A series of interlocking adaptations resulted in an incredibly fast, remarkably tiny little metabolic dynamo and some very distinctive-looking flowers locked together in a mutually beneficial dance...

Half of all hummingbird-pollinated orchids evolved dark pollinia such as in Arpophyllum spicatum.
©Eric Hunt

 
 
The Black Orchid and the Xenia Orchidacea
Rudolf Jenny
5 pages, 14 photos/illustrations


Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach published a very large number of articles about Orchidaceae in many different journals, but his main work was the Xenia Orchidacea. Three volumes were published, each in 10 deliveries with text and 10 plates. Volume one was published from April 1854 to October 1858, Volume two from April 1862 to December 1874 and Volume three from May 1878 to February 1900...

 

Coelogyne Stanny or Burfordiense.
©Rudolf Jenny

 

Lepanthes matisii:
A New Name for an Orchid Known for Centuries

Lisa Thoerle
8 pages, 16 photos/illustrations

A little known expedition, lost and forgotten treasures, political upheavals and intrigue, a case of mistaken identity, botanical detective work on two continents, and a good measure of luck: all feature in this tale that ends with the description of a new species name. Here, we describe a species of Lepanthes Sw. first illustrated more than two hundred years ago...

The colorful flowers of Lepanthes matisii
are about 1.5 centimeters long.
©Lisa Thoerle

 
 
Long-Tailed Mealybugs on Orchids
Paul Johnson
8 pages, 10 photos

Mealybugs are curious insects. Like scales, aphids, and other small but highly evolved hemipterous insects, mealybugs have many traits that express their specializations for a parasitic life on plants. Unfortunately, because of their natural success as plant parasites certain mealybugs are also among the most serious pests of orchids. The ScaleNet website notes the presence of at least 2000 species of mealybug worldwide, with 300 species in the United States and Canada, alone. According to identification records kept by the Systematic Entomology Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 39 species of mealybug are reported from orchids. Fortunately, only a few species are regularly problematic on orchids, but which species occur where varies considerably. Of the species possible on orchids, the long-tailed mealybug in particular is probably the most pernicious and persistent pest of orchids in homes and small greenhouses, after the Boisduval scale...

 

Cluster of adults and immatures on
Phalaenopsis leaf.
©P.J. Johnson

 

All Consuming Orchids
Rosalie Dixler
8 pages, 16 photos

While I had always assumed that the beauty of orchids was responsible for their worldwide popularity, I learned new reasons during trips to China and Bhutan. While in Bhutan, our guide bought a bunch of cymbidium flowers in the local market. They were not destined to be displayed in a vase for decoration. Instead, he planned to give them to his wife to sauté for dinner! I was surprised to learn that these orchids were edible. During our trip to China in Yunnan Province, I was even more amazed to see dried orchid tubers sold as medicine in the pharmacy near our hotel in Kunming. This piqued my interest to learn more about the human consumption of orchids...

Bhutanese guide bringing Cymbidiums home for dinner.
©Joseph Dixler