Jackie Chambers, UBC BG Horticulturist, shares a second entry and photograph with us this week:
In stark contrast to the bright showy blooms surrounding it, the dense spike of greenish-yellow and black flowers of Corycium orobanchoides, or monkshood orchid, demanded my attention.
In general, orchid flowers have three sepals and three petals (collectively referred to as tepals); the third petal is often a specialized structure called the lip, which is modified in various ways to attract pollinators. In the case of Corycium orobanchoides, the three upper tepals form a hood, the lateral tepals are almost joined, and the lip is transformed into shield-like appendage with long horizontal lobes pointed backward that spread over the anthers (see Aluka for a detailed diagram of Corycium orobanchoides flower structure). The flower lip has oil-secreting glands called elaiophores, which attract an oil-collecting bee (Rediviva peringueyi) to pollinate the flower. Research suggests that the bees use the oil to feed to larvae.
Corycium orobanchoides is a tuberous perennial, which can reach 45cm in height.
The species name orobanchoides literally means “like Orobanche“, and refers to the flower spike’s resemblance to some members of the genus Orobanche.
Monkshood orchid is native to flat, sandy areas of the southwestern cape. This plant was spotted at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden.