Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Flying Duck Orchids - and my Blogger Birthday

Thanks to the regular readers who have bothered to follow the path of my steps across the last year. Little did I know quite where the journey would take me, when I started out on 26 November 2005. I wrote three blogs on that first day - because I had not then understood how the system worked, and I was experimenting with it.

I am delighted to see that my very first blog entry was entitled "Odd little things which grow around Robertson"

What is exciting is to see that the very first blog contains a picture of the "Flying Duck Orchid", (Caleana major) - which is still right up there amongst my favourite flowers. It is less satisfying to realise that I did not post a single word of text to go with the photograph. Oh well, I soon sorted out how that worked!

This little Orchid is a sensitive plant, with the "duck head" part of the flower sitting on a flexible hinge. Insects are attracted to enter the centre of the flower, in search of the mysterious scent which it apparently emits.

When the flower senses the movement of the insect, the "duck head" closes over, trapping the insect inside. This is an example of a highly evolved system for achieving pollination.

There is a tiny escape hole (which can actually be seen in the top photo - it is visible on the unopened bud on the right of the open flower). To escape through that little hole, the insect has to pass the pollen sacs of the flower, and it will inevitably get a dob of sticky pollen glued onto its back, as it seeks to exit the flower. Larger insects are liberated after about half an hour, when the flower re-sets itself to the open position.

Click on the photo to enlarge the view.

Interestingly, the second photograph shows a wonderful association of plants and insects. Flower Spiders are often found associated with Orchid flowers. Obviously the spiders know that the Orchid will attract insects to the flower, either by scent, or nectar, or pollen. In this case, there is a tiny spider sitting in her web, which is strung across the front of the flower. The body of the spider is only about the size of a match head, with the legs clearly much larger. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

She is facing outwards, and hanging upside down in her web - waiting for an insect to arrive. Clearly she avoids triggering the movement-sensing device on the flower, by remaining suspended across the front of the flower, on her web.

Two stories from one flower. This plant has given me double value for my sense of "Wonder" at the intricate designs of Nature. Each story is more weird and wonderful story than anything to do with this flower's uncanny cartoon-like resemblance to the head of "Daffy Duck"?

As a matter of statistical record, since I linked the "Site Meter" statistical reporting system on my blog, there have been 4853 separate visits to this blog site, an average of 30 visitors per day. These statistics wildly exceeded any expectation I had at the beginning. And even better, these are not just accidental hits (which does happen on the internet), but there have been 11400 "page views", an average of 2.34 pages per visit, which means people have been actually looking through the blog entries.

Thanks to my loyal readers - you make it all worthwhile.

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