(Sarasota, FL, January 16, 2006): The Tropical Display House at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is presently showing off a gorgeous Comet Orchid. It should be in bloom approximately eight to twelve more days, so plan to visit soon to see this spectacular plant.
This is an incredible orchid with a unique history. The Comet Orchid is a native of Madagascar. It was first discovered by Aubert du Petit-Thouars, a French aristocrat and botanist in 1857. The orchid produces white waxy flowers that attract pollinating insects and it has a fragrance that is especially seductive to insects at night. Even if an insect were to perch on this flower at night it would still have a lot of difficulty reaching the nectar. The nectar is hidden deep inside a narrow tube approximately 30-centimetres long.
According to Deep Jungle by Fred Pearce, Charles Darwin was insatiably curious about the Comet Orchid and the type of insect that could possibly pollinate the breathtaking flower. He experimented with different ways that an insect could get the nectar from the flower. He used bristles and needles and glass rods but the answer was still not clear. He realized that for this orchid to be pollinated, it had to be pollinated by an insect with an extremely long proboscis, many times the length of its body. Darwin predicted that one day an insect such as this would be found. Many of his peers got a chuckle out of Darwin’s predictions. Another forty years later, a subspecies of the Morgan’s sphinx moth was discovered with just such a tongue and it pollinated the comet orchid in the depths of the Madagascan jungle.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a respected center for research and education as well as a famous orchid showplace. The Gardens are located at 900 South Palm Avenue in Sarasota. It is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the exception of Christmas day.
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