Herself's Houston Garden

Conservation through cultivation

What lies lie in the pretty scent of an orchid?




The scent of a plant is one of the many reasons we love those flowers. Orchids give off complex scents un-duplicated by perfume manufacturers. What lies lie in the scents of orchids?

Dendrobium sinense orchids on the Chinese island of Hainan, mimic the scent a honey bee makes when it is in distress. This scent is used to warn other bees to stay away. Hornets that eat the bees know the scent and land on the orchids producing the scent hoping to find food. The orchid gets pollinated, the hornet goes away hungry.

New orchid deception found: wearing the scent of hornet’s prey

Ophrys orchids give off the same scent that female bees give off when attracting a mate. Male bees come to the Ophrys orchid looking for a mate and pollinate the orchid while there. But it’s not just Ophrys, 18 of 20 orchids tested gave off at least trace amounts of alkenes.

Female bees are much better at pollinating plants, but male bees travel further. Plants who specifically target male bees will spread and receive pollen from a wider range of plants.

Evolution of sexual mimicry in the orchid subtribe orchidinae