The Fertilisation of Orchids

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Abstract

WHILE botanising this spring in Portugal, I was struck with the fact that scarcely one of the orchids—species of Ophrys principally—that I had collected for my herbarium, or examined in the field, seemed to be fertilised, for none presented the least indication of having had pollen applied to its stigmatic surface; and I examined flowers in every stage of expansion, from the opening of the bud to the withered and shrunk up floral envelopes. Each one, I remarked besides, contained its own pollinia, their caudicles in their respective glands and in their natural position. I was so struck with this, that one day (March 31) I gathered and examined forty-five different flower-heads, and of all these only one was found to have pollen-grains on its stigma, and all, the fertilised one included, had their pollinia intact. The locality was the Tapada d'Ajuda, or Royal Park, situated just outside the city walls of Lisbon, an inclosure containing many acres of land, clothed in spring with a rich flora, and a favourite entomological hunting ground, teeming with Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, and the commoner Lepidoptera. Several of the orchids contained aphides, and a few harboured a species of small red ant.

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FORBES, H. The Fertilisation of Orchids. Nature 16, 102 (1877) doi:10.1038/016102a0

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