ANGRAECUM – The “Comet Orchid”
I have got a nice little story to tell you this week regarding an orchid, a moth and Charles Darwin.
The story begins in Madagascar in the late 1700’s when a French aristocrat, who was a very keen botanist, discovered this fantastic orchid. The leaves are dark green, strap-shaped, and form a large fan-like plant. The large beautiful white waxy-textured flowers are star-shaped and have an unusually long nectar tube (spur) measuring about 30cm. Hence its common name, the Comet Orchid. It is at the base of this tube that the nectar collects which attracts insects to come and pollinate the flower.
Enter Charles Darwin, the naturalist who came up with the theory of evolution. In 1862 he predicted that in order for this particular orchid to be pollinated there had to be a moth with a long enough proboscis (feeding tube) to reach down into the spur to collect the pollen. Such a moth was eventually discovered in the early 1900’s but as Darwin had died several years previous he never saw his theory proven. The moth, a subspecies of the African hawk-moth, was given the scientific name of Xanthopan morganii praedicta with reference to the prediction Darwin had made all those years before.
Angraecum Veitchii is a hybrid of Angraecum Sesquipidale x Eburneum and you may also find it under its other common name of the “Madagascar Orchid”.
This story is a good example of how plants and animals have evolved to become of mutual benefit to each other.
Angraecums make good house-plants if placed in a well-lit position but avoiding strong summer sun. Follow the general orchid rules for watering, making sure the growing media dries before giving a good drink.