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Orchid - What Is This?

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#1 Bernard Foot

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Posted 08 November 2020 - 22:00

My current project is making stereo macro UV shots of parts of flowers and plants. Yesterday I came across something in a commercially grown orchid that I have not seen before.

Below are the following images:
  • Visible image of the flower
  • Stereo version of the visible image, if you have red/cyan anaglyph classes. (This low-res image has some outline artefacts not present in the full res. version.)
  • A close up UV shot.
  • Stereo version of the UV shot.
What is odd to me is the pair of orange (black in UV) balls hanging below the "head" - what are they? To the naked eye they looked like a pair of anthers, but the images clearly show there is no pollen.

This particular flower seems to be in bad shape. The outer side petals have folded in to make the flower quite narrow. The usual "platform with horns" at the bottom of the central structure is missing - it looks like it has broken off. The strip of material that the balls are attached to appears to have peeled of from the "head". And the front surface of the "head" itself appears to be concave rather than convex.

I've not been able to find any similar images on the internet.

Anyone know what's going on here?

[UV images: Sony A6000 converted to full spectrum, Baader U, 3 x flash modified for UV, ISO 200.]

Attached Image: Orchid with Balls Macro R LoRes.jpg

Attached Image: Stereo Orchid with Balls Macro LoRes.jpg

Attached Image: Orchid with Balls Macro UV L LoRes.jpg

Attached Image: Stereo Orchid with Balls Macro UV LoRes.jpg

Edited by Bernard Foot, 08 November 2020 - 22:00.

Bernard Foot

#2 nfoto

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Posted 08 November 2020 - 22:15

They are pollinia, i.e., pollen glued in a sticky goo. Ready to be deposited on the head of a gullible visiting pollinator. See this https://en.wikipedia.../wiki/Pollinium

#3 Bernard Foot

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Posted 08 November 2020 - 22:24

Thanks, Birna. I'm surprised I haven't seen this before.
Bernard Foot

#4 Adrian

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Posted 09 November 2020 - 09:21

Bernard, Theses are great images. As Birna said you have photographed the pollinia. In some insect pollinated orchids the pollen attach themselves to the head of the insect, which then transfers it to another flower. The glue begins to wear off after a short period of time.
Here are two images of the Broad Leaved Helleborine Orchid (Epipactis helleborine) which is, unusually, pollinate by wasps. It is fascinating to sit by a flower and see wasps flying around with pollinia attached to their heads!
blob:https://www.ultravioletphotography.com/301da2e3-ba0c-4a45-96c9-63fd85a679fe
Adrian Davies
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#5 Adrian

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Posted 09 November 2020 - 09:23

Apologies
My images did not go in to the last post!

Attached Images

  • Attached Image: wasp comp.jpg

Adrian Davies
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#6 nfoto

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Posted 09 November 2020 - 09:29

Great examples, Adrian.

I always wonder what the pollinator thinks when a pollinium is glued to its eye(s) : must be pretty confusing :devil: :bee:

#7 Adrian

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Posted 09 November 2020 - 10:39

I must try to do this in UVR next year!
Adrian Davies
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#8 Bernard Foot

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Posted 09 November 2020 - 12:14

Thanks, Adrian - not bad images by yourself, either. You must have a lot of patience. And looks like you have more interesting plants in Surrey that we do in Bucks.

I don't really get the evolutionary advantage of pollinia vs. loose pollen. It looks like the flower is putting all its eggs in one basket (analogy is not quite botanically accurate). The pollinium is carried by a single insect, and I guess it could drop off before getting to another flower. It could even drop off the flower producing the pollinium before it gets onto an insect - as those in my images are in danger of doing. Whereas loose pollen on an anther could get onto many insects.
Bernard Foot