Articles About Orchids
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Articles About Orchids
   The genus Coryanthes was established in the XIXth century by Sir William Hooker and there are currently about 34 species included in the genus. These strange orchids are naturally found from Mexico to Brazil in areas with high humidity and high temperatures.

   They can be found from sea level up to 1,200 meters in elevation! In the wild, Coryanthes orchids are found near ant colonies because they have formed a symbiotic relationship with ants. The orchid provides nectar and a place for the ants to nest, and in return the ants act as a police force protecting the plant against herbivores. A very reasonable relationship, if I do say so myself.

   The blooms of the Coryanthes are among the most bizarre in the flower world. Their structure is one of the most complex in the plant kingdom and could almost pass for an extraterrestrial flower. C. bruchmuelleri produces one of the heaviest flowers in the Orchidaceae, which can weigh over 100 grams.
Coryanthes bruchmuelleri
Coryanthes bruchmuelleri
   Coryanthes are not only strange because of their relationship with ants, but they also have a very unique way to attract their pollinators. Coryanthes is pollinated only by specific fragrance collecting male bees of the genera Euglossa, Eulaema and Euplusia. The bees are attracted to the blooms by the strong fragrance the flower creates.
   The bee flies to the flower landing on the raised part of the flower called the "hypochile." When the bee searches for the source of scent, he goes under the hood of the flower where he inevitability looses his footing and falls into the flower's special bucket formed by the flower's labellum. The bucket, or pouch, is filled with a sticky liquid produced by the orchid. The bee, now wet, can not fly so his only way to escape the trap is to climb up the only dry path called the "callus." This path guides the bee to a spot just below the column where he can exit by squeezing past the lip and rubbing against the stigma where via the viscidium the pollen packet is attached to his back.
   The really strange thing about this whole procedure is the bee must then go visit yet another bloom, fall into the bucket again, and repeat the whole process to pollinate the flower. This time, however, when the bee crawls through the tunnel and pushes past the stigma, the pollen packet attached to his back is removed and pollinates the flower.
   The flowers of the different species make sure that the bee that pollinates them are the only ones that can fit exactly through the tunnel. If the bee is too big, it will drown in the bucket. A bee that is too small simply passes with no effect. This is just another example why orchids are some of the strangest plants in the plant kingdom.
   If you are interested in trying to grow one of these strange orchids, here is the cultural requirement you will need to maintain to keep them happy.
   Light requirements are 1800 to 2500 fc. Humidity should be held at around 80% year-round. Temperature should be maintained at 80-84 oF (27-29 oC) during the day and 64-68 oF (18-20 oC) at night.
   These orchids require lots of water. In their natural habitats, the rainfall is heavy most of the year with a 2-3 month period in late winter or spring with much less rainfall. You should try to duplicate this condition by watering heavy most of the year keeping the medium evenly moist while the orchid is actively growing. During the winter, or when they are not actively growing, keep them somewhat drier but do not let them dry out.
   The fertilizer you use should be high in acid such as Miracid. You can also use coffee grounds as a top dressing at a rate of 1 teaspoon every 2 months. There is really no rest period for these orchids except the reduced watering in the winter.
   One of the most important things to remember is the fact that these orchids live with ants. The ants produce formic acid, which creates a very acidic growing environment for the orchid. A very acidic medium that stays moist is highly recommended.
   It is also important to know that like Stanhopeas, Coryanthes also send their pendent flower spike down through the root ball so you need to plant these in baskets to accommodate the inflorescence.