Caladenia carnea

Lindsay is the author of today’s entry:

Thanks to David aka petrichor@Flickr for submitting today’s photograph (original image | Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool).

An opportunistic terrestrial species of eastern Australia, the pink fingers orchid thrives in open, seasonally wet areas. Despite its small size–it only grows to about 20mm–the pink finger orchid emits a strong musky scent. This orchid has evolved to mimic the pheromones of the female thynnid wasp. It attracts male wasps by mimicking the smell and shape of the flightless female, who become the unwitting pollinator of this species.

The sexual life of the orchid family is characterized by its very specialized pollination systems and it is estimated that one third of the 30 000 or so accepted species use deception to attract pollinators. In the case of Caladenia carnea, it is a sexual deception–an adaptation unknown outside the Orchidaceae.

There is an ongoing discussion among biologists and evolutionists as to how, exactly, deception increases the overall fitness of a species. A number of explanations have been suggested, including: 1) the amount of pollen typically produced by orchids is so little that one visit from a pollinator is enough to effectively remove the pollen or pollinate the non-rewarding flower; and 2) that deception promotes cross-pollination, which would explain the high level of hybridization, and consequently adaptation, in the orchid family. These hypotheses are not without their problems, however, and the sexual life of orchids is still the subject of heated debate.

Caladenia carnea

20 responses to “Caladenia carnea”

  1. Arthur

    Thanks so much for today’s photo. Just concluded a very difficult and stressful work day, passed by my “Monocotyledons of Kew 1993” poster next to the desk and was practising some “I’d rather be there now…” escapism. Opened up my day-end e-mails and there was this image. Tomorrow has to be better as a result of this!

  2. Island Jim


  3. Meg Bernstein

    I agree, this can make your day!

  4. phillip

    deception…?…10,000 accepeted species use deception…?…a plant smarter than a bug…?
    sneaky lil’ plants….tumbleweeds shaking their seeds in rolling around..burrs stuck to animals…goatheads stuck to my feet….gourds being washed away like bubbles in a stream…
    as hard as i try…i can not comprehend how and why a lomg time ago….when all living things as we know….which came from a common ancestor…decided upon their unique personalities…
    i believe intelligence is all around us…probably more intellengce than our little monkey brain can handel…

  5. Calochilus

    Taxonomists strike again, now Petalochilus carneus, the name change does not distract from the beauty of this wonderful plant which , in good time, can be found in their hundreds in limited areas. Lots of very closely related species illustrated in “Native Orchids of Australia” by David L Jones published by Reed New Holland

  6. Rosas

    finally, at least,a nice picture

  7. Eric in SF

    I just visited Australia and saw many many of these beauties in flower. Here is one with my finger, for scale:

  8. Quin

    thanks Eric, a picture is worth 20mm (or much more)

  9. Sue in Bremerton

    Everyone said it all, but i really liked what Philip said, my sentiments exactly. And the scale picure by eric helped a lot.
    But as i first saw the picture, i thought.. what a lovely color, and then my mind went to all of the other colors of flouwers we’ve seen here. It amazes me that the colors have a lot to do with polination. Never thought about the scents. So sometimes women have been referred to as Orchids.. lovely to look at and they smell good too. Thank you Chanel no 5.

  10. Kathleen Garness

    And its pollination deception habit is also similar to the ophrys orchid of Europe, although the ophrys looks a lot more to me like an insect than this one does ; ).
    Triphora trianthophora, native to North America, is similarly diminutive in size and also has the unique habit of blooming en masse, triggered by subtle changes in summer evening temperatures, and then quickly disappearing until the following year – if then.
    Aren’t orchids just amazing? They live on every continent except Antarctica, from inside the Arctic Circle to southern Tasmania. Thanks for this great photo!

  11. Cambree

    What a pretty little orchid. Thanks Eric for the comparison!
    I love the name too – reminds me of Caledonia.

  12. Ken
  13. Don Fenton

    A wonderful photograph of the very first orchid that I knowingly saw [when I was a child]. It remains one of my great favourites. I’m not sure about the colour, it’s usually pink. There are, of course, blue Caladenias and hybrid swarms galore, as well as artificial hybrids.

  14. wendy

    Way to go Eric. Scale is so telling. Amazing to think that while this orchid mimics a wasp it retains superbly its identity as a flower- and such a lovely one!

  15. Candida

    ooh It is so tiny… and lovely… I agree with Arthur, it made my day too.

  16. cloudy

    Stunning! oh this is so beautiful! and so delicate!

  17. elizabeth a airhart

    are we not lovely in our wery best dress
    deceptive is our true name it would seem
    thank you eric always helpful
    thank you l and d

  18. Eric in SF

    Folks – don’t be shy about clicking on the links Daniel and team embed in the daily blog posts! There was an even better scale photo linked in the posting, plus a fascinating look at sexual deception in orchids.

  19. elizabeth a airhart

    eric is correct and just putting the name
    of the plant in a search engine will
    lead you on to a fine array of pictures
    and parks and wildflower sites from around
    the world and the worlds botanical gardens
    the news letters are just fine even videos
    come in my email

  20. gail shewchuk

    Thanks for these wonderful photos..I use them as screensavers. Everyday someone passes by my desk and comments. I then educate them on the species etc.

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