Saturday, December 29, 2012

Star of Bethlehem

Angraecum sesquipedale - Star of Bethlehem
I love green so this orchid caught my attention immediately. I encountered it today at the Belle Isle conservatory in Detroit. I took a picture of the tag, so I could look it up. It is Angraecum sesquipedale, also called the Star of Bethlehem and Christmas orchid. What a romantic name for an orchid. It is star shaped and blooms at the time we celebrate the birth of Christ, so it is very apropos. It was discovered by a French botanist in Madagascar in 1798. It is also called Darwin's orchid as he theorized that it must be pollinated by a moth with a very long proboscis, which was found to be true, long after Darwin died. The long petiole-looking thing(very scientific language) at the top right of the photo is called a spur and the pollen is in the end of it. This spur can be between 10-16" long, so the moth had to have a proboscis that long. Darwin's theory was made fun of and its too bad he didn't live long enough to say "I told you so", to the unbelievers. In its native habitat, it blooms from June-September, but when grown here or in Europe, it blooms from December-January, thus giving it its common name of Christmas orchid. It has a lovely scent, so I've read, but only at night. Maybe I'll encounter one at night sometime and experience it first hand.

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