Orchid of the Week: Pterostylis nutans

This week’s orchid is the Pterostylis nutans, an orchid native to Australia and New Zealand. This orchid has a couple aliases: the Nodding Greenhood and the Parrot’s Beak Orchid. What its scientific name makes me think of is a pterodactyl, but the plant looks more Venus Flytrap than Flying Reptile. This orchid actually traps insects inside its blooms—how very Little Shop of Horrors!

Pterostylis nutans
Image credit: piko.com.au

Pollination is unique with this orchid. The bloom has a hinged lip that swings backward when an insect such as a gnat or mosquito lands on it. The insect is then forced to escape by crawling past the sticky flower pollen which adheres to the insect’s body, ensuring pollination of the next bloom it lands on. Neato!

Pterostylis nutans bloom
Image credit: pacificbulbsociety.org

The Pterostylis nutans pollination story reminds me a bit of the Angraecum sesquipedale (Darwin’s orchid), which was Orchid of the Week about a month ago. It’s just incredible the way orchids have evolved to reproduce the best way possible for their environment. Evolution never ceases to amaze me!

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