Orchids have developed highly specialized pollination systems and thus the chances of being pollinated are often scarce. This is why orchid flowers usually remain receptive for very long periods and why most orchids deliver pollen in a single mass; each time pollination succeeds thousands of ovules can be fertilized.

Pollinators are often visually attracted by the shape and colours of the labellum. The flowers may produce attractive odours. Although absent in most species, nectar may be produced in a spur of the labellum, on the point of the sepals or in the septa of the ovary, the most typical position amongst the Asparagales.

Methods of PollinationEdit

In orchids that produce pollinia, pollination happens as some variant of the following. When the pollinator enters into the flower, it touches a viscidium, which promptly sticks to its body, generally on the head or abdomen. While leaving the flower, it pulls the pollinium out of the anther, as it is connected to the viscidium by the caudicle or stipe. The caudicle then bends and the pollinium is moved forwards and downwards. When the pollinator enters another flower of the same species, the pollinium has taken such position that it will stick to the stigma of the second flower, just below the rostellum, pollinating it. The possessors of orchids may be able to reproduce the process with a pencil or similar device.

Some orchids mainly or totally rely on self-pollination, especially in colder regions where pollinators are particularly rare. The caudicles may dry up if the flower hasn't been visited by any pollinator and the pollina then fall directly on the stigma. Otherwise the anther may rotate and then enter the stigma cavity of the flower (as in Holcoglossum amesianum).

In some extremely specialized orchids, like the Eurasian genus Ophrys, the labellum is adapted to have a colour, shape and odour which attracts male insects via mimicry of a receptive female. Pollination happens as the insect attempts to mate with flowers.

Many neotropical orchids are pollinated by male orchid bees, which visit the flowers to gather volatile chemicals they require to synthesize pheromonal attractants. Each type of orchid places the pollinia on a different body part of a different species of bee, so as to enforce proper cross-pollination.

An underground orchid in Australia, Rhizanthella slateri, never sees the light of day and depends on ants and other terrestrial insects to pollinate it.

Catasetum, a genus discussed briefly by Darwin actually launches its viscid pollinia with explosive force when an insect touches a seta, knocking the pollinator off the flower.

After pollination the sepals and petals fade and wilt, but they usually remain attached to the ovary.

Artificial PollinationEdit

See Orchid propagation section Sexual reproduction for more information.

Seed capsulesEdit

Capsule Harvest timesEdit

OrchidDays after pollination
Ada 200
Aerides 110-180
Aerangis 90-180
Acampe 495
Angraecum 165-330
Ascocentrum 110-180
Bifrenaria 240
Brassia 170
Bulbophyllum 90-180
Calanthe 120
Calyptrochilum 240
Cattleya 120 - 330
Coelogyne 390
Cymbidium 210-270
Cypripedium 330
Cyrtorchis 210
Dendrobium nobile 195
Dendrobium kingianum 64
Dendrobium phalaenopsis 120
Dendrochilum 120-140
Disa uniflora 42-49
Doritis 225
Epidendrum 105
Gongora 75-180
Goodyera 30
Laelia 270
Laelia anceps 140
Laelia brysiana 150
Laelia furfuracea 90
Listera ovata 30
Maniella 30
Masdevallia 130-150
Maxillaria 300
Miltonia 210 - 270
Neofinetia falcata 165
Odontoglossum 210
Odontoglossum cordatum 150-180
Oncidium ornithorynchum 70-240
Oncidium variegatum 60-70
Ophrys sphegodes 60
Paphiopedilum 180-440
Paphiopedilum lowii 120
Paphiopedilum parishii 150
Phalaenopsis 180
Phalaenopsis hieroglyphica 380
Phalaenopsis schilleriana 120-140
Renanthera monachica 150-180
Rhynchostylis 150-250
Sophronitis 75-100
Stanhopea 170
Tolumnia henkenii 90-120
Vanda 600
Vanda coerulea 290
Vanilla planifolia 60
Zygopetalum intermedium 250-260


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